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
  • 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: HGV Fitter - Technician

£16 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for someone ...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Recruitment Genius: Bathroom Showroom Customer Service / Sales Assistant

£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence