In a joint letter, twenty-eight of Europe’s leading academics have warned that European Union data protection laws risk harming vital research, especially social and health-related studies.
Recent amendments to the data protection laws adopted by the European Parliament earlier this year will make personal information which gets collected in scientific research become a protected form of data. Many European scientists are concerned at the impact this law might have, particularly in areas like smoking-related diseases and child nutrition.
According to a European Commission press release, scientific research ‘stands to benefit from proposed data protection reform’. Their only explanation for this is because under the current system the conditions for health data processing are not harmonised.
The reforms are being driven by the idea that a single data protection regime is better than 28 separate ones (by each of the 28 member states) and a ‘level-playing field’ is something which will emerge as a result of harmonisation. But the real playing field for Britain is the global economy, not Europe. Now is not the time to restrict vital EU research for any reason, let alone for the sake of broad-brush data protection laws.
Will the EU relent? Even if they do so, politicians often speak of a European level and a national level. Advocates of the EU project claim some policy areas are done better when coordinated from Brussels rather than solely by national governments. But it is very easy to claim something will work better on the European plane merely because domestic legislation is inefficient or insufficient.
This is why the idea of our online privacy being protected by the EU on a ‘European level’ is attractive to so many – especially for Europeans living in relatively repressive nations like Hungary. The EU can be seen as a safeguard against their own governments.
However the European Court of Justice privacy ruling (‘right to be forgotten’) shows us a law which looks good on paper can have unintended consequences in practice. This is what has become of the ECJ ruling, which is now being exploited by politicians and criminals alike to erase their online history from appearing on search results.
Similarly, the expansion of EU law into the domain of research will have serious repercussions in Europe. Apparently, similar warnings from other scientific bodies throughout the year have fallen on deaf ears. Though if leading academics are writing letters to vent their disapproval and concern, this ought to be a serious issue to which Brussels must be held accountable. The EU should cease the reckless expansion of their laws where they don’t belong.
In the meantime, until the political establishment gets the message, we will continually cry out loudly to Get Britain Out.
Alan Murad, Get Britain Out