Electronic Communications (Privacy)

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 9th February 2012.

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Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 10:30 am, 9th February 2012

What discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the EU directive on privacy and electronic communications; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We are very good Europeans on the Government Benches and we are one of the first countries to have implemented the e-privacy directive. Naturally, we are engaged in ongoing discussions with our EU colleagues. Several member states, including France and Germany, have had discussions with us about the best way to implement it.

Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

This measure contains a number of sensible dimensions, as does the related data protection directive, but does the Minister agree that we should reject the idea of a freedom to be forgotten, which is what is being proposed by the European Justice Commissioner?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We will have discussions with Ministers at the Ministry of Justice, which is the Department responsible. We will undertake a consultation and call for evidence, so that people can give us views and help our negotiations on the data protection directive.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Privacy and Injunctions (Joint Committee), Vice-Chair, Conservative 1922 Committee

Does the Minister agree that things such as cookies and targeted behavioural advertising are of great benefit for both businesses and consumers, and that a lot of the fear of them is based on ignorance? What is his Department doing to try to increase understanding of these technologies so that decisions can genuinely be made as a result of informed choice?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

When we implemented the e-privacy directive we made sure that we worked closely with business. There is a balance to be struck between implementing the law and ensuring that business still has the freedom to innovate. The e-privacy directive is about transparency. So long as consumers know what is happening to data, they should be comfortable with what is being done with them.