After ten years (2004-2014) of serving as European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Peter Hustinx has recently stepped down. He has been the first and only person to hold this title since the institution was established in 2004. The EDPS aims at ensuring all EU institutions, bodies, agencies and offices respect people’s right to privacy when processing their personal data.
According to article 24.4 of Regulation (EC) No 45/2001, the data protection supervisor is appointed for a mandate of 2 to 5 years and can be eligible for a reappointment up to a maximum total term of 10 years. Hustinx is thus ineligible for a new mandate.
On 21 October the Civil Liberties Committee in the European Parliament expressed its preference with a majority of 34 votes for Giovanni Buttarelli -Hustinx’ former assistant- to take over this post. There were a total of 5 candidates. Buttarelli’s past experience in the institution will be of particular value considering the current political environment: European data protection rules are under revision.
Euractiv highlights the tough competition Buttarelli faced in the selection process. Among the competing candidates who stood before the LIBE Committe on 20 October was the former French EU Affairs Minister Noëlle Lenoir, Yann Padova, who has experience as Secretary General of the French Data Protection Office, and the former Director of the Polish authority dealing with protection of personal data Wojciech Rafał Wiewiórowski, who was actually appointed as Assistant to Giovanni Buttarelli.
The current data protection rules have been in force since 1995 but in January 2012 the European Commission proposed a legislative package (Communication, Regulation, Directive) to revise the current rules in order “to meet the challenges of the digital age”, while taking also into account the citizens’ growing concerns on this issue. In the past few years, citizens’ feelings of safety and protection have been decreasing. Indeed, according to 2011 Special Eurobarometer Survey 359 on the attitudes on data protection and electronic identity in the European Union, only 26% of the social networks users and 18% of the online shoppers felt under complete control about the personal information they had disclosed on the Internet.
The appointment of the EDPS is based on a joint decision between the Parliament and the Council. With the EP’s nomination known, the ball is now on the Council’s court.