Meet the EU’s new privacy watchdogs



The new EDPS: Giovanni Buttarelli

Credit: European Parliament A/V services

This week, the conference of presidents of the European Parliament gave its final approval to the appointments of Giovanni Buttarelli and Wojciech Rafa? Wiewiórowski to become the new heads of the European Union Data Protection Authority.

On 21 October, just after the hearings of the five candidates for the position, Giovanni Buttarelli – former assistant of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) – was appointed to become the new EU privacy watchdog by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee. Wojciech Rafa? Wiewiórowski was chosen as deputy EDPS.

The EDPS serves as data protection officer for EU institutions and oversees their compliance with data protection rules, but it also plays two other extremely important roles. The supervisor advises the EU on data protection matters and promotes cooperation among national authorities to ensure effective privacy protection throughout Europe.

Peter Hustinx – the present privacy chief – has served as supervisor for over 10 years and he took strong positions to defend digital rights, including a firm stance on ACTA’s need for transparency and data retention, which he dubbed the“E.U.’s most privacy-invasive instrument ever.” Hustinx turned the EDPS from a discreet institution to a trusted authority for public policy guidance on privacy issues.

Meet the new EDPS: Giovanni Buttarelli

Giovanni Buttarelli is an Italian national with over 30 years of experience in the public sector dealing with data protection and criminal law matters. Before becoming Hustinx’s Deputy supervisor, he was head of the Italian data protection authority. Currently stationed in Brussels, he is member of the Italian judiciary as judge in the Court of Cassation; teaches courses on “Protection of personal data and fundamental rights in Italy and Europe;” and works as a member of several working groups in the Council of Europe on data protection and privacy rights.

Surely, the years ahead will be quite challenging for Buttarelli. He has been called to play a key role in an increasingly important field, particularly following the mass surveillance scandals, and he has his work cut out for him as the new watchdog for privacy in the EU institutions.

Europe’s new Deputy EDPS: Wojciech Rafa? Wiewiórowski

Serving closely with Buttarelli will be Wojciech Rafa? Wiewiórowski, who has been nominated from the Civil Liberties Committee to be the next EDPS assistant supervisor. He is presently the head of the Polish data protection authority, and he has been, among other things, director of the informatisation department at the Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration and a lecturer on legal informatics, IT law, and data protection at the University of Gda?sk, Poland.

Wiewiórowski has fiercely defended privacy as the head of the Polish data protection authority. Moreover, he has constantly monitored legislative debates on the European general data protection proposals and he has made public statements on the need to speed up the legislative process.

As Assistant supervisor, Wiewiórowski will be required to assist Buttarelli in all his duties and his background will certainly prove a great asset for the strengthening and enhancement of the EU privacy watchdog.

What’s next?

Buttarelli and Wiewiórowski will lead the EDPS office for the next five years. During this time, they will continue building on the visibility of this independent European authority, which improved significantly during Hunstix’s outstanding two-term mandate.

Access welcomes this Italian-Polish partnership and believes this team has the potential to address the next challenges facing the personal data of European citizens. We are encouraged by the new EDPS team which has the experience, vision, and gumption to tackle these important challenges.

Contribution by Francesco Vinci