Business Case for Data Protection


Today is European Data Protection Day. As the transition to the online, data-driven economy gathers speed, it’s a good reminder for the business community that we have to earn the trust of the people that use our products and services through good business practices and strong privacy controls.

But at a time when the information and communications technology industry is one of the few sectors of the European economy that is still growing, the European Commission’s proposal for a new Data Protection Regulation threatens to unravel the digital ecosystem, putting jobs and growth at risk, and potentially stifling Europe’s capacity to innovate.

That’s why the Industry Coalition for Data Protection (ICDP), a coalition of 15 leading trade associations representing a broad spectrum of European, American and Asian businesses, is sounding the alarm about Europe’s data protection rules, under revision at the moment in Brussels.

Current proposals undermine our ability to deliver high-quality products and services, tailored to the needs of our customers. If implemented, they would have an immediate effect on the financial viability of online businesses, expected to account for 5.3 percent of GDP in G20 countries by 2016.

The proposals will also limit business’ ability to innovate in the future. Ultimately, European consumers will have less choice than consumers in other parts of the world, who will enjoy a greater choice of products and services that are more closely tailored to their needs.

As ever more consumers discover the benefits of the Internet, their demands have become more sophisticated and specialised. In addition, cloud technologies offer great promise for Europe, with estimates indicating that the cloud could create more than one million new jobs and several hundred thousand new small- and medium-sized enterprises in the EU, and drive down the cost of ICT for the public and private sectors. Businesses must have the freedom to innovate and cater to these demands if they are to stay competitive in a global market.

But equally, all businesses—large and small, European and foreign—must invest heavily in ensuring that users’ privacy is responsibly managed. ICDP member companies invest substantial resources today in research to develop privacy-enhancing technologies and optimised business processes, making privacy by design a reality today.

We understand and agree that it is time to revise privacy regulations – the world has moved on since they were first written in 1995. But European policymakers, in their haste to push forward new data protection rules, are not giving adequate consideration to the practical implications of their proposals. They have not adequately considered the rich variety of activities that depend on data collection and processing. Nor do they take into account the speed of changes in technology and the business environment, and the impact on Europe’s competitiveness and capacity to innovate.

The current proposal provides few meaningful new rights or protections to consumers, but it does significantly increase red tape and jeopardize the European digital economy. As written today, we believe the Commission’s proposal requires further debate.

What Europe needs is a balanced, fair, and business-friendly framework for data protection in the 21st century. That means regulation that supports innovation and technological development while serving the needs of consumers who want high-quality, competitively-priced products and services, provided by companies that have earned their trust. The data protection framework should focus on accountability—not overly prescriptive legislation.

We believe in a Europe of innovators and forward-looking consumers; the European Commission and Parliament should join us.

Members of the ICDP include: Association for Competitive Technologies (ACT), American Chamber of Commerce to the EU (AmCham EU), BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA), DIGITALEUROPE, European Digital Media Association (EDiMA), European Multi-channel and Online Trade Association (EMOTA), European Publishers Council (EPC), European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA), Federation of European Direct and Interactive Marketing (FEDMA), GS1, IAB Europe, Interactive Software Federation of Europe (Video Games Europe), Japan Business Council in Europe (JBCE), TechAmerica Europe and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)