Europe hopes to enact harsher penalties for security breaches.

European Data Protection Day calls attention to privacy

Stephen Perkins

Tomorrow is European Data Protection Day, and the question it asks is simple: Is your data safe?

The annual day seeks to commemorate the importance of protecting data. In a press release for the event European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said it is important to consider the value of privacy.

"Data Protection in the European Union is a fundamental right," Reding stated. She later added,"I wish to see full speed on data protection in 2014."

Data Protection Day was launched in 2006 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This year marks the eighth celebration of the occasion, with a host of planned events reigning it in. One of the main items on the agenda is a panel discussion called "After Snowden: Using Law and Technology to Counter Snooping." As the title acknowledges, Edward Snowden's June 2013 release of NSA spying data forever changed the data privacy terrain by revealing how easily personal data can be compromised in an age of mass surveillance. The Snowden panel will discuss, among other things, whether NSA spying constitutes a violation of human rights, according to the panel brochure.

Europe revamping privacy laws
This year's Data Protection Day comes off the heels of a promise from Reding to work for more stringent data protection laws in the European Union. Reding said she was driven to action after finding out that Google's privacy law violations in Spain and France resulted in cumulative fines of less than 1.1 million Euros for the Internet giant. According to Reding, that fine is a pittance considering Google's annual revenue.

"Taking Google's 2012 performance figures, the fine in France represents … pocket money," she said in a press release.

Reding said that set fines such as the one Google incurred aren't enough to deter future privacy breaches. She is now working to enact new data protection legislation to ensure compliance from companies like Google. Under her proposed measures, such companies would be fined up to 5 percent of their global annual turnover for security infractions. Reding stated this fixed percentage is the only way to incentivize compliance. 

Tomorrow's Data Protection Day is functioning, among other things, as a launching pad for the the Data Protection Reform. According to an official release, the European Parliament is set to approve the Reform in April. Reding said the reform will help appease the 92 percent of European citizens who are concerned about mobile surveillance.

Categories: Data Protection