This post was written by Cynthia O’Donoghue.

In a speech at the EC Justice Council meeting in Dublin 18 January 2013, Vivian Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, demonstrated her commitment to continuing the “good progress” made on the EU Proposed Data Protection Framework (Proposed Framework). Her comments focused on three topics being debated at the meeting: the household exemption, the right to be forgotten, and tougher fines.

Reding first emphasised that the household exemption, which permits individuals processing data as part of a purely personal activity, was a necessary part of the proposed General Data Protection Regulation, but that to modernise for the digital age, it should only apply where there is no gainful interest to the individual. This approach would change current business operations where individuals are incentivised to provide their contact lists to social networks or other e-commerce sites.

Reding stressed that the right to be forgotten is an important method of providing individuals with control over their personal data. Responding to criticism that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to remove all personal data from the Internet, Reding suggested a pragmatic approach whereby companies are not obliged to remove all traces of data, but must at least inform third parties processing the data of any erasure request made by an individual.

Reding also advocated that fines needed to be tougher to be more of a deterrent; fines in the Proposed Framework can be up to 2% of worldwide annual turnover. Several voices, including the Irish, who hold the current EU Presidency, have instead questioned the appropriateness of the penalties in the Proposed Framework, and are arguing that data protection authorities should be given discretion and flexibility in how penalties are issued.

In addition, Reding expressed strong support of the Albrecht report, reiterating that a modern and uniform set of data protection rules is good for growth within the EU and could save up to €2.3 billion per year, a figure which was recently criticized by the UK Government for being over-inflated.