Google Data Chief Says ‘Flawed’ EU Privacy Law Is Dead

Google Inc.’s top privacy official said the European Union’s “flawed” attempt to overhaul data-protection rules is “dead” and urged politicians to go back to the drawing board.

“Europe’s much-ballyhooed, and much-flawed, proposal to re-write its privacy laws for the next 20 years collapsed,” Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel at Mountain View, California-based Google, said in a blog post today. “The old draft is dead, and something else will eventually be resurrected in its place.”

EU nations have dragged their heels over measures that could empower regulators to levy fines of as much as 100 million euros ($136 million) against technology companies for privacy violations when they process EU citizens’ data. U.S. firms from Google to Facebook Inc. would be covered by the law.

This is “another try of Fleischer to kill the data-protection regulation by calling it dead,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green Party politician who has steered the draft EU law through the European Parliament. The “EU would have already agreed if Google wouldn’t fight every regulation” with hundreds of millions of dollars “for lobbyists in Washington D.C. and Brussels.”

Fleischer’s comments come a day after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding showed no interest in dropping the rules she first proposed two years ago. In a speech yesterday, she said the 28-nation bloc must “move full speed ahead” toward clinching a deal on data protection.

Running Out

Time is running out for an agreement before European Parliament elections in May. Reding yesterday said that Greece, which holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, will push forward the debate.

Fleischer said that it would be better to wait for the EU to come up with new proposals. He was writing in a personal capacity, according to a disclaimer on the blog.

“Whatever comes next will be the most important privacy legislation in the world, setting the global standards,” Fleischer said on his blog. “I’m hopeful that this pause will give lawmakers time to write a better, more modern and more balanced law.”

EU leaders at a meeting in October bowed to U.K. demands for a slowdown in the adoption of the data-protection law. The leaders dropped a 2014 deadline to consider the effect of the legislation on businesses in favor of a pledge to introduce the plans in a “timely fashion,” allowing more time to consider the effect of the legislation on business.

Governments and members of the European Parliament must agree on the final version of the rules before they can take effect.

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