By Desmond Hinton-Beales - 21st February 2013
People want their data to be protected. They want to know that they can be anonymous
Sophie In 't Veld
EU data protection rules will "push companies to innovate" and improve Europe's "competitive advantage", a debate in the European parliament has heard.
ALDE deputy Sophie In 't Veld, was speaking at an event on Wednesday co-organised by The Parliament Magazine, EuroPriSe and PA Europe, called 'Communicating ePrivacy and trust: the role of the seal'.
The Dutch MEP said that the debate on the content of the data protection package "has been heating up in recent weeks", with concerns that the "US will reap the benefits of not having to work under the burden of so much regulation".
In 't Veld said that industry protests over EU data regulation harming competitiveness were "similar complaints" to those made by the car industry in response to EU environmental legislation, and now the "biggest selling brand of car" uses a "greenest car brand" profile.
"Rules can force companies into innovating," she said, adding that data protection legislation also impacts on competition policies and could give the EU a "competitive advantage".
She also highlighted the growing importance of data protection and privacy, saying, "People are only just beginning to understand" how crucial a topic this is.
"People want their data to be protected. They want to know that they can be anonymous," said In 't Veld, adding that, "privacy is the new green".
Data protection used to be considered a "nothing" report, but is "now the most important piece of legislation in this mandate", she added.
Also speaking at the event was head of EuroPriSe - the European privacy seal for IT products and IT-based services - Kirsten Bock, who highlighted her organisation's role in "looking at data protection in a proactive way" and providing companies with the guidance they need.
EuroPriSe awards 'seals' for companies that comply with European data protection regulations, using "public criteria" and "publishing results of certification cases", said Bock, who stressed that compliance is the organisation's primary function.
Bock underlined the importance of being seen as a "credible arbiter of trust", adding that "financial independence" was key and that EuroPriSe does not "rely on a specific number of seals being awarded to finance the organisation".
Pat Carroll, CEO of fraud prevention solution company Validsoft - the only company in the world to have three European privacy seals - said that EuroPriSe certificates were "crucial" for the company's business, adding that while the process is "expensive, it provides a competitive advantage".
Carroll, who stressed that it is a "fallacy" when companies claim that the ease of use for products utilising personal data would "compromised by security", said that he would love for the European privacy seal to become a "global standard".
Irish MEP Seán Kelly, who also spoke at the event, said that it was not the desire of parliament to "overburden" companies with "red tape", but added that proposals for the EU's data protection package means that "Europe will be seen as a leader, not a follower" on this issue.
"Industry has an important role to play, said Kelly, who stressed that "an increase in eCommerce" requires consumers to be able to trust companies.