US Lobbyists Write EU Online-Privacy Law

The European Union is working with the American Chamber of Commerce, Amazon and eBay to write a new online privacy policy.

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The European Union (EU) found a fast, cheap way to gut draft an online privacy law: Outsourcing the work to lobbyists, including the American Chamber of Commerce, Amazon, eBay and a few groups actually based in Europe.

The EU’s parliament–using a trick from Congress’s Guide to Destroying Institutional Credibility–is cutting and pasting the exact language used by the lobbyists into its law. The lobbyists are also doing an impressive job of getting rid of anything that might smack of actual consumer protection.

Here’s a section of the law before the American Chamber of Commerce got its hands on it:

"Every natural person shall have the right not to be subject to a measure which produces legal effects concerning this natural person or significantly affects this natural person, and which is based solely on automated processing intended to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to this natural person or to analyse or predict in particular the natural person's performance at work, economic situation, location, health, personal preferences, reliability or behaviour."

And after:

"A data subject shall not be subject to a decision which is unfair or discriminatory, and which is based solely on automated processing intended to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to this data subject."

If neither of these passages make any sense to you it is because they are not written in what we experts like to refer to as "English."

So I will do my best to translate. (Please do not attempt this at home. I am a trained professional operating on a closed test-track.) And…

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I give up. Clearly the entire thing was translated from Finnish to Dutch to Klingon to English using Google translate on a day it was raining inside that particular cloud. All I can say for certain is that somehow people have been transformed from "natural persons" to "data subjects." I am pretty sure this was banned by the Geneva Convention on War Crimes and used as a plot in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Here is what the implication of the changes are, according to LobbyPlag, the unfortunately named group that is tracking all this:

"The broader protection against the negative effects of 'profiling' were replaced by a very narrow right for citizens. It is again unclear what is meant by 'unfair' or 'discriminatory'–what might be perfectly fair in the view of a company might be seen as rather 'unfair' by a user. In addition only the outcomes, not the 'profiling' itself is limited by this provision."

Well, at least that’s closer to English. LobbyPlag’s website documents all the changes and includes PDFs of the lobbyist’s documents that the language was copied from. It is a very impressive effort.

Someday soon, after the EU has grown up into an even bigger political mess, the members of parliament will do as we do here in the states: Make every attempt to stop the press from getting all of this information. 

(Hat tip to Glyn Moody at ComputerWorldUK)

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