Lobbyists' demands were 'copied into law by MEPs'

 

Sensitive personal information risks being left vulnerable to hoarding and misuse by banks, retailers and insurance companies due to three British MEPs accused of directly inserting major firms’ suggestions into EU laws, according to privacy campaigners warning of the most intense lobbying effort ever seen in the European Parliament.

Malcolm Harbour, Giles Chichester and Sajjad Karim are among several Brussels politicians criticised for “copying and pasting” proposals by Amazon, eBay and credit companies in between 22 and 25 per cent of their amendments to a data privacy law described as the most important for decades to come.

Concerns that firms are able to collect vast quantities of sensitive information on what websites people visit and what terms they search for online – potentially affecting job applications, health and credit records, and discriminatory pricing – are driving EU efforts to pass the continent-wide Data Protection Regulation.

This law could see companies fined up to 2 per cent of their global turnover if they misuse personal information, as well as force them to reveal what data they hold on individuals, restrict the way they share it and compel them to get explicit permission first.

But some MEPs became so concerned at attempts by corporations to water down the draft legislation that they leaked examples of lobbying demands they had been sent, exposing how the three Conservative MEPs and their counterparts had inserted passages word-for-word from documents sent to them by major companies.

Anna Fielder, a trustee of campaign group Privacy International, said that lobbying is legitimate but the amendments were”diluting existing rights, making it worse than what we have now”.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: “The scale of what they’ve taken from lobby groups – trying to dilute fining rights or dilute rights to get your data back – tells you a lot. These are squarely going to benefit large companies and won’t benefit consumers. Companies know more and more about us, and have more and more power over our daily lives. They can predict our health before we know about it. This is about giving control of our data back.”

Eva Lichtenberger, a German MEP who criticised the corporate influence over the amendments, said she had experienced “aggressive behaviour” from some lobbyists, sending her direct “instructions how to vote” on amending it. “It is an extremely intense lobbying campaign, it must be the most intense,” she said.

Rivals have countered that MEPs leading the privacy campaign have themselves copied suggestions suiting their own agendas. But Ms Lichtenberger said: “It is not balanced. We have hundreds and hundreds of submissions from the industry, but much less from NGOs. You have lots of companies who send us proposals of over a hundred pages because they hate our data protection ideas.”

Marco Maas, who set up the LobbyPlag website comparing legal amendments to corporate suggestions, said some of the lobbyists were playing on MEPs’ heavy workload. “We asked one German MEP who changed a law from good to bad where the wording had come from, and he said he had no idea. They have so many papers to read that they don’t remember.”

Responding to the claims against himself and his colleagues, Mr Harbour, who represents the West Midlands, said: “I consulted extensively… and examined a large number of written submissions. We held many meetings with varying interest groups, including consumer and government representatives and representatives of small and large businesses. All of these meetings will be registered voluntarily. The amendments I tabled were ones that I considered were best able to improve the draft Regulation, especially in terms of data protection, control, and transparency for data subjects.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client IT Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client IT Account Manager is ...

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor