Viviane Reding Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, made a speech entitled “Towards a true Single Market of data protection” at a Meeting in Brussels, on July 14, 2010.  In her speech she said that we need a comprehensive and coherent approach so that the fundamental right to data protection is fully respected within the EU and beyond. She put forward five proposals.

 First, individuals’ rights should be strengthened by ensuring that they enjoy a high level of protection and maintain control over their data. Individuals need to be well and clearly informed, in a transparent way, by data controllers – be it services providers, search engines or others – about how and by whom their data are collected and processed. They need to know what their rights are if they want to access, rectify or delete their data. And they should be able to actually exercise these rights without excessive constraints.

Secondly, the internal market requires not only that personal data can flow freely from one Member State to another, but also that the fundamental rights of individuals are safeguarded. Provided that all data protection guarantees are in place and properly applied, personal data should freely circulate within the EU and, where necessary and appropriate, be transferred to third countries. This requires a level playing field for all economic operators in different Member States. This is currently not the case: indeed, one of the main concerns expressed by businesses in recent consultations is the lack of harmonisation and the divergences of national measures and practices implementing the 1995 Directive.  Further harmonisation and approximation of data protection rules at EU level is needed.

Thirdly, the current rules on data protection in the area of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters should be revised.  Derogations to general data protection principles should be limited. They should not go beyond what is necessary and proportionate in order to pursue objectives of general interest, such as the fight against terrorism and organised crime, or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others.

Fourthly, personal data must be adequately protected when transferred and processed outside the EU. To that end, the current procedures for international data transfers, including in the areas of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, will be improved, strengthened and streamlined.

Fifthly, EU monitoring of the implementation and enforcement by Member States of the existing rules to guarantee that individuals’ rights are actually respected will be a priority; the role of data protection authorities should be strengthened; and data protection authorities should be provided with the necessary powers and resources to be able to properly exercise their tasks both at national level and when cooperating with each other.

James Goudie QC