EU lawmakers' body agrees on safeguards against illegal data transfers

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, February 1, 2023 REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A key committee at the European Parliament on Thursday agreed to stringent safeguards to prevent non-EU governments from gaining illegal access to EU data, drawing criticism from a tech lobbying group.

The Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee will next month seek the support of EU lawmakers for amendments which will allow it to start negotiations with EU countries on the final details of the European Commission's draft Data Act.

The draft law lays out rights and obligations on the use of EU consumer and corporate data generated in smart gadgets, machinery and consumer products, part of a raft of rules aimed at curbing the power of U.S. tech giants.

EU concerns about data transfers have grown since former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed mass U.S. surveillance.

"The Data Act will be an absolute game-changer providing access to an almost infinite amount of high-quality industrial data," lawmaker Pilar del Castillo Vera, who is steering the legislation at the assembly, said.

The committee introduced safeguards against unlawful international data transfer by cloud service providers and set stricter conditions on business-to-government data requests.

Tech trade association ITI said lawmakers may be going too far with provisions restricting transfers of non-personal data that exceed those set out under EU privacy rules for personal data.

"This is clearly not justified by the level of risk posed by non-personal data," ITI's Director General for Europe Guido Lobrano.

"Data flows are the backbone of the digital economy and allow companies to reach consumers and access new markets. The Data Act should not create new restrictions to data flows that would harm Europe's economy," he said.

Pan-European consumers' group BEUC gave a thumbs up.

"The really positive development is a robust ban on the use of dark patterns by both data holders and third parties. This will, for example, prevent the tricking of consumers into giving their consent to undesired data processing," its senior digital policy officer Maryant Fernandez Perez said.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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