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About our response

We are grateful to the European Commission for running this consultation at such an important time for privacy. We believe that privacy is a fundamental right that must always be discussed, promoted, protected, and along with changes to our societies, it must be continuously enhanced.

For twenty years Privacy International (PI) has vigorously defended personal privacy. We have campaigned across the world to protect people against intrusion by governments and corporations that seek to erode this fragile right. We believe that privacy forms part of the bedrock of freedoms, and our goal has always been to use every means to preserve it.

PI is the oldest surviving privacy advocacy group in the world, and was the first organisation to campaign at an international level on privacy issues. Its antecedents stretch back to 1987, at which time the organisation’s founders started to build an international network in response to mounting concern across the world over the changing nature and magnitude of privacy violations.

We remain engaged with a variety of issues on a regular basis, including identity and biometric systems, corporate governance, cross-border data flows, data retention by companies and governments, information security, national security, cybercrime and aspects of around a hundred technologies and technology applications ranging from video surveillance to DNA profiling. Our strategies of engagement included participating in judicial processes, and government consultations, filing legal complaints, research and report writing, running events and campaigns, and media awareness exercises.

We are therefore not inclined to shrink from a discussion about the future of the 1995 Directive. We would be remiss if we did not note, however, that there are powerful stakeholders who look forward to revising the Directive to minimise its protections, its reach, and who speak of how it is ‘out of date’, and how privacy considerations must be reduced to consider other societal and economic interests. By focusing on technological, economic, and political changes they seek to reshape the Directive in ways that are counter to the expectations of consumers.

As a result, we are aware that if we critically analyse the Directive in this consultation response, we appear to be instigators for its ‘reopening' and renegotiation. This could not be further from the truth. We hope that readers of this consultation response understand that, first and foremost, we are ardent supporters of the Directive and we believe that it has indeed provided Europe, and the world, with a benchmark for privacy protection. We also believe that the principles within the Directive do not need to be changed and are necessary to the protection of privacy.

Our response to this consultation was undertaken through extensive discussions with our membership from around the world, and with key experts in privacy, human rights and data protection. We sought to respond succinctly to the Commission’s questions while relaying all the fine-grained input we have received from our members and advisors, and reflecting upon our years of experience.

We remind the readers of this consultation response that we are not merely supporters of the Directive, we are also frequent users as we have filed numerous complaints across all the Member States. Importantly, we are also ambassadors of the Directive as we promote its principles around the world as other countries seek remedies to the same set of problems that Member States sought to resolve in the 1960s and 1970s, that the Council of Europe and the OECD sought to standardise in the 1970s and 1980s, and that the European Union sought to harmonize in the 1990s. The stakes are now so much higher, and Europe must again lead.