EU Data Privacy Watchdogs Urged to Sort Out ‘Public Squabbles’

European Union privacy regulators must sort out their “public squabbles” over the enforcement of the bloc’s data-protection rules or its executive body may consider moving to a more centralized model to target violations.

Tensions have been building for months among national data protection watchdogs over the amount of time their Irish colleagues are taking to complete probes on big U.S. tech companies, including Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. Such tensions and public rows playing out in the media are “not a good development,” European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova told Bloomberg in an interview.

EU Data Privacy Watchdogs Urged to Sort Out ‘Public Squabbles’

Jourova’s comments follow a spat that erupted last week between the Irish watchdog and a European Parliament committee that’s been working on draft resolutions targeting data protection commissioner Helen Dixon’s office for not acting fast enough. The Irish authority on March 17 published its correspondence with EU lawmakers on its website, saying the “significant criticism” directed its way was based on “inaccurate and incomplete” information.

“Such public squabbles don’t contribute to the creation of mutual trust, and I can only appeal to data-protection authorities to focus on the issues and improve their cooperation,” said Jourova, who played a key role in pushing through the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. “If it turns out this is not possible, then we would have to consider an intervention probably in the direction of a more centralized model.”

Dixon in an interview last month hit back at “ludicrous” comments from critics who complained the watchdog’s been too slow to act. Her office has 27 privacy probes targeting Apple, Google and other tech companies that have set up an EU hub in Ireland. Facebook accounts for nine of these investigations and more are pending into its WhatsApp and Instagram units.

“I spoke with Helen Dixon many times, and I understand that she is under enormous pressure,” Jourova said. “The success of the enforcement of GDPR is largely in the hands of data protection authorities and their ability to cooperate.”

GDPR empowers EU data regulators to levy penalties of as much as 4% of a company’s annual revenue for the most serious violations. The Irish authority in December issued the first fine targeting big tech from one of its probes, slapping Twitter Inc. with a penalty of 450,000 euros ($532,000).

EU lawmakers on Thursday will vote on a draft resolution that calls on watchdogs in Ireland and Luxembourg, where Amazon.com Inc. has its EU base, to “speed up their ongoing investigations into major cases.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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