E.U. Ministers care more about security than privacy, says official

European Commissioner Viviane Reding defends her position on data protection

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Europe's Justice Commissioner said this week that interior ministers are the biggest obstacle to data protection laws in the E.U.

Commissioner Viviane Reding defended her decision to break proposals for new data protection laws into two parts, saying at an event on Monday that this was the best way to appease national ministers from European Union member states.

The proposals, published on January 25, consist of a regulation for general data protection rules, which is directly enforceable, and a directive to govern the handling of data by law enforcement authorities, which can be transposed into national law as the member state sees fit.

Under the proposed regulation, companies will have to report data security breaches "as soon as possible," usually within 24 hours. The regulation also includes the "right to be forgotten]," where citizens can ask for their information to be permanently deleted. Independent national data protection authorities will be empowered to fine companies that violate these rules.

The directive will apply more general data protection principles and rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

Interior minsters' main priority is security, said a member of Reding's team on Friday. Splitting the legislation in two gives them more control over how their law enforcement agencies comply with the laws. Not to have made the split would have risked delaying the legislation for years -- something Reding does not want.

The Commission wants to finalize the reform of the E.U.'s data protection laws by mid-2013, but the rules still have to be agreed with the European Parliament and national governments.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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