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Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice
EU - Brazil: working together towards a gold standard in privacy protection
“Friends of EUBrasil” networking event
Brussels, 11 June 2014
On data privacy, like in football, we are playing in the same direction; to score a goal and win the Championship for a gold standard in privacy protection! A combined EU-Brazil team can be a winner.
The wonder of the internet is that it is owned by no-one and by everyone. It has empowered individuals. The individual, the citizen, should remain at the heart of the internet. But is he or she really at the heart?
For the EU and Brazil the answer to this question is simple: yes. Our position on the field on issues such as net neutrality and state surveillance is the same.
1/ The Overall Picture
In April this year, Brazil adopted the "Marco Civil", an internet bill of rights. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee said that the law will "unleash a new era—in which the rights of citizens in all countries are protected by a Digital Rights Charter."
I certainly hope that Tim is right. And I hope the European Union will follow Brazil. That's why I have fought for the privacy rights of EU citizens through the Union's data protection reform. That is the reason the European Parliament has called for a digital habeas corpus.
2/ Net Neutrality
Part of Brazil's Internet bill of rights is the protection of net neutrality. ISPs are not allowed to “offer services in non-discriminatory commercial conditions” and must “refrain from anti-competition practices.”
The EU is heading in the same direction. In April the European Parliament voted in favour of strong Net Neutrality rules. Like Brazil, the European Parliament sided with the individual.
3/ Mass Surveillance
The revelations about mass surveillance by the US and some European countries have sparked a vigorous debate that should be welcomed. The revelations were a wake-up call, to find the right balance between rights and security.
Again, Brazil has acted. The "Marco Civil" limits the data companies can collect on Internet users. Communications over the Internet are to be "inviolable and secret." Emails can be read only by senders and their intended recipients. Of course, national security must still be safeguarded. The data of citizens can be stored for 6 months by a telecom service provider but it can only be accessed after by a Court order.
These are safeguards that were missing in the EU's Data Retention Directive. As a result, the Directive has been invalidated by the Court of Justice of the EU, Europe's highest court. The court said: the violation of individuals' rights was of "vast scope and particular gravity". One thing is certain: it will be have to be revised, with greater protection included for individuals. Again, the EU and Brazil are moving in the same direction.
4/ Consumer Privacy
As Brazil has chosen to protect its citizens online, and enhance trust in the online environment, it should go all the way and should adopt federal privacy rules.
The EU's data protection rules will restore trust in the internet in the EU by updating individuals' rights, putting them back in control. People shouldn’t be forced to part with their privacy. It will also establish a single rule for Europe, saving companies €2.3bn/year in red tape. Europe's reform is now irreversible.
If Brazil moved in the same direction, it could mean greater cooperation and greater data exchanges between the EU and Brazil. And it could mean, in the not too distant future, the recognition of the adequacy of Brazil's data protection rules. An EU-Brazil partnership for the protection of personal data is in motion!
That would be a swifter and more secure way of exchanging data than simply laying an undersea communications cable from Lisbon to Fortaleza.
5/ Concluding remarks
The EU and Brazil are strategic partners. We are fighting for the same principles, for the same values. For the Internet to remain free and open, with the individual at its heart.
Other parts of the world are currently going in the opposite direction. In the US, differentiated treatment is being negotiated by telecoms companies, without any safety net for individuals in US law. President Obama has announced that metadata collected under Section 215 (of the Patriot Act) will be stored by telecom companies, at the same moment as the Court of Justice invalidated Europe's scheme.
The 2014 World Cup starts tomorrow in Brazil. May the best team win! At any rate I believe that in data protection the EU-Brazil team can be the winner.
There is a community of values between the EU and Brazil. The EU and Brazil should work together to ensure that data should not be processed simply because algorithms are refined. Safeguards should apply and citizens should have rights. To ensure that the rights we have created off-line also apply online. To help build an Internet that is open and innovative.