Predictably, the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) defended the interests of industry in the heated battle over personal data protection that is being played out in the EP. Its members, who submitted an opinion on 20 February to the lead committee (Civil Liberties, LIBE), retained the advantages for industry of the draft regulation presented in January, without certain disadvantages.

The text approved with backing from the Conservatives, Liberals and ECR sovereignists supports the idea of a regulation laying down a single set of data protection rules across the EU. The report supports the idea of data subjects having to give their consent to companies wishing to use their data. This requires a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication that the data subject agrees to the processing of his or her personal data. BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation, denounces the exclusion of pseudonyms from the definition of "personal data," which ITRE says may be used "if the data subject is adequately protected".

"This is risky because such data can easily be associated with individuals," argues BEUC Director-General Monique Goyens. "The ITRE committee voted in favour of a legitimate interest' that may be invoked by national data authorities, operators or third parties to process data without informing consumers," she adds. The organisation interprets this provision as giving companies - especially American firms - total...

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