The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has published an explanation of the process and timeline of the proposed EU data protection reform and its involvement in the on-going negotiations.

According to the ICO, the proposed EU data protection reforms could “be one of the biggest changes to data protection that the (UK) has ever seen.” The changes will impact on all citizens of the UK to a certain degree; especially in relation to consent mechanisms and the controversial “right to be forgotten,” should it be incorporated into the law.

The five European Parliamentary committees – Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE); Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE); Legal Affairs (JURI); Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL); and Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) – are making progress on their amendments to the Proposed General Data Protection Regulation (the “Proposed Regulation”) and the Proposed Directive. Each committee must submit its own amendments prior to negotiating a consolidated version. The Council of the European Union, which consists of ministers from each Member State (including the UK’s Ministry of Justice), must also complete its impending amendments, before they and the European Parliament can approve a final text detailing the new rules.

Ireland is hoping to adopt the new rules by the end of June this year; however, this is widely believed to be an unrealistic target because certain Member States (including the UK) have criticised the proposal for a directly applicable Regulation, which they consider to be overly prescriptive, favouring instead the implementation of a Directive. Further concerns arise from the proposal that the Regulation will be confined to the private sector – the ICO and other EU data protection authorities have argued strongly against this.

The timescales put forward demonstrate the commitment to prioritising and finalising the complex process of creating a framework which strikes the right balance between protecting personal data without overburdening business or stifling economic growth and innovation.

With discussions on the proposals already having taken three years, many have become disillusioned with the duration of the process. 2013 is set to be a crucial year in progressing negotiations, especially as the Commission is attempting to bring the reform into law by 2014, when the European Parliament and the Commission are due for re-appointment.