Data commissioner could lose power to regulate tech giants
Ireland could lose the power to regulate many of the biggest US multinationals.
US technology giants from Google to Facebook are too big to be left in the hands of individual national privacy watchdogs, according to the European Union's top data protection official.
It would be bad if proposed EU rules meant that "two or three countries take the lead on dealing with the big players and the others watch the trains go by", said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, the recently appointed head of a panel of EU privacy regulators in February. "There has to be more substantial consultation between the authorities on topics such as Google or Facebook."
With companies such as Facebook, Apple and LinkedIn having Ireland as their main European base for data-protection purposes, policing privacy violations already resembles a battle between David and Goliath for thinly staffed agencies in some of the EU's smallest nations.
As negotiations between governments and European Parliament lawmakers drag on over how to revamp privacy rules, there are splits on whether regulators in countries where companies have their European headquarters should be in charge of complaints or whether privacy watchdogs in other nations could also deal with them or probe those companies. One goal is to establish a "one-stop-shop" for businesses, so companies will only have to deal with a single supervisory authority.
Proposals to hand a lead role to regulators in the country where each firm has its European headquarters shouldn't sideline other agencies, said Falque-Pierrotin, who also heads France's CNIL data privacy agency.
"Developing a coherent one-stop shop is the main stumbling block for approval of the regulation," said Christopher Kuner, a privacy specialist at law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Brussels.
"It's one of the core elements of the proposal."
The EU's current rules were drafted nearly two decades ago, when the web was in its infancy. EU nations have dragged their heels over revamping the law, replacing a firm 2014 deadline last year with plans to introduce the legislation in a "timely fashion". (Bloomberg)