THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT has voted for preserving the privacy of citizens' communications and will block organisations from sharing information with US authorities, up to a point.
The vote was anticipated and highlighted by civil rights groups who clubbed together to press ministers on the importance of privacy protection in the light of revelations about internet surveillance by the US National Security Agency.
According to the parliament, the Civil Liberties Committee voted to include "stronger safeguards for data transfers to non-EU countries," and various rules including the right to erasure and big fines for firms that break the rules.
"This evening's vote is a breakthrough for data protection rules in Europe, ensuring that they are up to the the challenges of the digital age. This legislation introduces overarching EU rules on data protection, replacing the current patchwork of national laws", said rapporteur for the general data protection regulation, Jan Philipp Albrecht.
"Parliament now has a clear mandate to start negotiations with EU governments. The ball is now in the court of member state governments to agree a position and start negotiations, so we can respond to citizens' interests and deliver an urgently needed update of EU data protection rules without delay. EU leaders should give a clear signal to this end at this week's summit", he added.
Not everyone is happy though, and European Digital Rights (EDRi) said it was a move forwards that leaves some loopholes open.
"If allowed to stand, this vote would launch an 'open season' for online companies to quietly collect our data, create profiles and sell our personalities to the highest bidder," said Joe McNamee, executive director of European Digital Rights.
"This is all the more disappointing because it undermines and negates much of the good work that has been done."
EDRi has three concerns about the vote, saying that these include the suggestion that tracking and profiling individuals does not relate to privacy.
The proposals are subject to a full plenary vote before elections next year. µ