Jourová: I will launch a massive information campaign on data protection

Věra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for justice, will start the first annual review of the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement on Monday (18 September) in Washington. [European Union]

Data protection is only getting more important. Yet, most people simply do not care enough about protecting their personal data, Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told EURACTIV Czech Republic.

“Privacy is getting more and more valuable, and it is related to citizens’ trust. This has become a factor in competition between companies. They cannot afford not to secure personal data anymore. I was told so by European as well as American businesses,” Czech Commissioner Jourová said on Friday (5 May).

Jourová negotiated Privacy Shield, the new data protection framework for European citizens. Thanks to the framework, private companies such as Facebook and Google, but also public organisations such as the American security forces, cannot misuse personal data sent from Europe across the Atlantic.

However, Privacy Shield was negotiated with the previous US administration, under Barack Obama. When Donald Trump took over the Oval Office, doubts grew over how important the protection of internet privacy would be for him.

Security at the expense of freedom

Jourová visited Washington in April. Her main goal was to make sure that nothing would change regarding the protection of European citizens’ privacy.

“I met, among others, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. I explained to him that Privacy Shield is essential for American and European business, because there have been such huge data flows from the EU to the US. And these flows must be secured,” Jourová said.

The Commissioner said that Ross had assured her the US would not go back on its obligations negotiated during Obama’s presidency.

“Trump’s slogan ‘America First’ means more security for American citizens. But it is often at the expense of freedom. However, I have not observed any data protection problems so far,” she said, adding that “it was good to go to Washington so soon”.

People do not care about data protection

However, Jourová is more concerned about the fact that people – mainly in the Central and Eastern Europe – do not pay enough attention to their personal data protection. In her view, citizens underestimate these threats.

“I will launch a massive information campaign by January at the latest. It should tell people about the new rights that the data protection reform brings to them,” she said, mentioning the new General Data Protection Regulation adopted last year by the EU.

“I do not want people to be paranoid. I just want them to know who is handling their data and what he or she will do with their data. I want people to give really conscious consent that can be withdrawn if they so wish,” Jourová stated.

“People should know where they can complain. They must know about their rights for compensation. People often do not know these things and the change must be made by the Commission and by member states,” she added.

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