BRUSSELS Feb 20 European Parliament lawmakers
voted on Wednesday against mandatory fines of up to 2 percent of
global turnover for companies caught breaching consumer privacy,
potentially limiting the impact of new data protection rules.
The body's industry committee, including Liberal,
Conservative and Socialist lawmakers, opted instead to allow
national regulators to determine the size of fines.
In practice, maximum fines in the European Union currently
only range from 300,000 to 600,000 euros.
The proposed data privacy legislation, first presented in
January 2012, is due to go to a vote in the parliament later
Consumer groups said Wednesday's committee vote would
probably mean lower penalties for companies relying on
unfettered access to clients' data which are caught breaking
They said the committee also backed down from proposals
which would have required customers to give their consent before
companies can target them with advertising chosen according to
their internet browsing habits.
"This consciously keeps consumers in the dark and affords -
particularly US companies - a licence to collect and process
personal data according to commercial interests," Monique Goyens
from the pan-European consumer group BEUC said.
Data gleaned from monitoring which web sites people look at
has proven a money spinner for tech start-ups, which earn money
by allowing advertisers to target audiences more exactly. So if
someone looks at web sites dealing with spa breaks, related
advertising will soon appear in their browser.
The industry committee is one of several which will consider
the proposed legislation.
An Irish lawmaker from the committee whose job it is to
consider the views of industry said he wanted to water down
sanctions for small- and medium-sized companies.
"A warning as opposed to an immediate fine makes sense,"
Sean Kelly said. "The gravity of the offence needs to be taken