European Commission Disbands Privacy Group

19 Feb European Commission Disbands Privacy Group

ClickZ News, By Jack Marshall, February 17, 2009
The European Commission has dismantled a group of five experts it assembled to review EU data protection legislation, following complaints that too many of its members represented American interests. The group was disbanded at the end of January, just a month after it first met. According to reports from European Voice, a French senator, Alex Turk, told a senate committee that the group was composed “four-fifths of personalities representing American interests.” As a result, the committee proposed a resolution stating it was “unacceptable” that four members of the group “are either from American companies or law firms whose principal establishment is in the U.S.” The group included Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel; David Hoffman, director of security policy and global privacy for Intel; and Christopher Kuner, a privacy lawyer with U.S. law firm Hunton and Williams. Speaking with ClickZ News last week, Kuner said, “Speaking only for myself, I can say that I was participating in the group based on my expertise in European data protection law, rather than as a representative of any particular interest. I do think it is unfortunate if experts are pigeonholed based on their nationality, rather than their experience and expertise.” Turk is also reported to have told the committee that “Europeans must note that the gap is big between the American vision and the European vision.” In reference to these comments, Kuner simply stated, “I am not sure what is meant by “the American vision” and “the European vision.” The group is now expected to be reformed as a larger, more representative group. Henriette Tielemans, a privacy lawyer with U.S. law firm Covington and Burling, and Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch data protection authority, comprised the remainder of the group’s membership.