Europe faces data protection vacancy

No suitable candidates applied for the job of EU data protection czar

Europe could be without a data protection chief from next week as none of the candidates applying for the job appear to have the required qualifications.

The European Data Protection Supervisor's five-year tenure runs out on Jan. 16. On Wednesday, the incumbent, Peter Hustinx, wrote a letter to the European Commission expressing alarm about leaving the position vacant.

"This uncertainty and the possibly long delays that may be involved, as well as their different consequences, are likely to harm the effectiveness and the authority of the EDPS over the coming months," wrote Hustinx. He pointed out that as a new law on data privacy is going through the European Parliament, the E.U. is currently "in a critical period for the fundamental rights of privacy and data protection" and that a strong EDPS is essential.

The EDPS is appointed by common accord of the European Parliament and the Council, based on a short list drawn up by the Commission following a public call for candidates.

Although the call for candidates went out last year, Commission spokesman Antony Gravili said that "the selection panel concluded that none of the candidates had the qualities that are needed for the job."

In the past such a scenario has led to the publication of a new vacancy notice and a relaunch of the selection procedure, Gravili said. No decision has yet been made on how to move forward in this particular case. The Commission hopes that Hustinx will agree to stay on in the post until a suitable replacement is found, he added.

The Commission is seeking candidates with proven experience in data protection issues, either as a member of a data protection supervisory authority or in a large private or public organization; practical experience in the implementation of data protection rules and the ability to act with independence.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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