Sean Kelly MEP has met with the US General Counsel of the Commerce Department, Cameron Kerry, on the increasingly important issue of online privacy, as co-author of the European Parliament's forthcoming Data Protection report.

"The interest in this subject here in Washington is truly enormous," Kelly said.

"It is perhaps the most important piece of legislation that will emerge from the European Union for quite some time. Data protection laws in Europe are outdated. The use of personal information and data has increased exponentially along with the increase in the use of the internet. Europe needs new laws and regulations to cope with these significant new realities."

General Counsel Kerry, who was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama, and is also the brother of former US Presidential candidate John Kerry, is meeting with Kelly at the Department of Commerce as part of the Irish South MEP's visit to Washington this week.

Kerry invited Kelly to meet him following a briefing delivered by the Ireland South MEP to Congress Staff yesterday on the fundamentals of the proposed EU Data Protection Regulation 2012, a key piece of legislation currently working its way through the European Parliament.

Kelly, as a member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee was nominated to co-author the Parliament's report on the Data Protection Regulation earlier this year. The report will have serious repercussions in the ongoing privacy-security debate, not only in Europe but in the US also.

Some of the key changes proposed would see a single set of rules implemented across the 27 member states. National authorities would also be granted increased powers to impose fines on companies breaching the new laws. Crucially, users will be afforded the 'right to be forgotten', meaning their online data will not be stored if there is no legitimate grounds to do so.

Kelly also stressed that the legislative process was still only at an infantile stage to date, and that discussions between the relevant parties was still ongoing. Kelly has been meeting with many of the industry’s biggest names in recent weeks to discuss the legislation, including Google, Facebook, Dell, and Hewlett Packard, all employers with a substantial presence in Ireland.

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