Patrick Breyer has a succinct pitch for his campaign to be elected MEP next year: I’m the new data protection guy. Breyer hopes to take Julia Reda’s seat in the European Parliament as lead candidate (yes, Spitzenkandidat) of the German Pirate Party.
Reda announced before the summer she wouldn’t run. Jan Philipp Albrecht, who co-authored the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, already left parliament to take up a job in the regional government of Schleswig-Holstein. Now a third prominent MEP, the Dutch Sophie In’t Veld, might lose a primary race in the coming two weeks, which would mean she also wouldn’t run next year. The Parliament, a bastion of data protection policy-making, could soon lose its leaders on the issue.
In comes Breyer, a seasoned privacy rights campaigner who has fought several rounds with the European Commission before German and EU courts on issues including data retention and transparency. He also got the court to designate internet protocol addresses as personal data.
“My intention is to be the new European voice on privacy and internet rights,” he told Morning Tech. “Many member states still have blanket data retention laws in place and several NGOs have called on the commission to institute a rule and abolish blanket data retention rule. That’s one fight we’re having,” he said.
“Privacy really is in shatters,” he said. “What we really need is internet privacy legislation specifically to protect our anonymity online and prevent tracking online,” he added, arguing the current draft of the e-privacy reform doesn’t meet his bar.
Asked whether amid trade, migration and Brexit turmoil, a campaign on digital rights can really be a winning strategy, Breyer said: “It’s not just privacy, it’s the internet and digital freedom as a whole. It all breaks down to who is taking the decisions, and who is influencing it.”