Slow appointment of privacy commissioners

January 10, 2014 |

In his excellent Open and Shut blog of 7 Januuary 2014, titled Appointing a privacy commissioner low priority for most states, Peter Timmins sets out in detail the lamentable situation of state governments not appointing or making permanent the privacy commissioners in Queensland and Victoria and the lack of regulatory oversight in South Australia,  West Australia and Tasmania.

But it seems that governmental lethargy is not an Australian problem only.  On 7 January 2014 Peter Hustinx fired off a fiery letter – for a bureaucrat – to the Vice President of the European Commission (found here) regarding the almost certain delays in the appointment of of the new watchdogs and called for the process for appointing successors to the roles to be accelerated.

The letter provides:

Dear Mr Vice-President,

 I am writing to express my serious concerns about the procedure for the selection and appointment of a new European Data Protection Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor. As set out in Article 42 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 45/2001, both are appointed by common accord of the European Parliament and the Council for a term of five years, on the basis of a list drawn up by the Commission following a public call for candidates.

 As you know, the mandates of the present team of Supervisors will expire on 16 January 2014. At this stage, it is highly unlikely that the appointment of a new Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor will take place either before or shortly after this date. This opens the perspective of a period of uncertainty as to when the new team of Supervisors will be appointed.

 This uncertainty and the possibly long delays that may be involved, as well as their different consequences, are likely to harm the effectiveness and the authority of the EDPS over the coming months. The EU is presently in a critical period for the fundamental rights of privacy and data protection, and a strong mandate is required to provide the authority to ensure that these fundamental rights are fully taken into account at EU level. In this respect, I would recall that the operation of a fully effective independent control authority is an essential feature of that right, as set out in Article 8 of the Charter and Article 16 of the Treaty.

 I would therefore urge you to take all the steps necessary to ensure that a new Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor will be appointed as soon as possible.

 A similar letter has been sent to the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and to the Greek Presidency of the Council.

 Yours sincerely,

Under EU laws, the European Commission is obliged to draw up a list of potential candidates to fulfil the roles of European Data Protection Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor. Successful candidates are elected when MEPs and EU Ministers reach a “common accord” on who should fulfil the roles. Successful candidates are appointed to the roles for five years.


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