Did you know that there are 340,000 dentists in Europe? And that they lobby about privacy? Who else lobbies? How do parties/groups create coalitions to persuade policy makers? What’s the mayor of Amsterdam doing in Brussels? In this blog on the privacy lobby we describe the different parties that are lobbying.
The new European data protection regulation is the most lobbied piece of legislation thus far because the subject is very important and touches upon almost every aspect of our daily lives. Therefore Bits of Freedom used the Dutch freedom of information act to ask the government to publicise all of the lobby documents they received on this new law. We published these documents with our analysis in English in a series of blogs for EDRi. This series of blogs has also been combined in one report. What parties lobby? What do they want? What does that mean for you?
Authority and representativity
Right. So there are 340,000 dentists in Europe. Apart from that, there are 73 Jewish genealogical societies who in total have about 10.000 members. Also, in an email to the ministry of justice, it becomes apparent that the Inretail association acts on behalf of 6.000 shopkeepers and 16.000 shops in the “non-food” sector. This sector entails “living and fashion, shoes and sports.”
These aren’t just random facts. This “number-dropping” has a specific aim: claiming authority and representativity to convince policy makers. Many parties do this to underline the importance of their position and arguments. In Brussels, this is particularly important: there are many organizations that act on behalf of an entire sector on a European level. Insurance Europe for example acts on behalf of the insurance sector in the different member states.
It also facilitates access. No longer five different technology companies have to knock on a policy maker’s door, but just one, which also happens to know that policy maker very well because he’s been there quite often. This is why many organizations choose to be represented by local consultants. Individual companies – especially rich ones – might be part of two or twenty-two such organisations.
The power of coalitions
It’s even better if you can speak on behalf of an entire coalition. It basically means: these points are really important, because organizations from completely different sectors support them. If you don’t accept these points as a policy maker, you run the risk of disregarding different sectors at once.
That is why some organizations launch new coalitions. Take a look at the email from Ericsson to the Dutch permanent representation to the EU for example, which announces wonderful news in a lobby document: a new coalition has been started that contains different companies from different sectors. And this coalition is very important: “With an aggregated turnover of over € 100 billion and some 520,000 employees worldwide, the Coalition members’ considerable presence allows them to bring growth, progress and jobs to the EU’s economy.”
One coalition that lobbies a lot is called the ‘Industry Coalition for Data Protection.’ Although the name suggests otherwise, they aren’t actually in favour of more data protection. Members are for example advertising agencies, European Internet providers, media companies, and the ‘Chamber of Commerce’, an American lobby organization. Taking just one example, Microsoft is a member of nine of the associations that are part of this “coalition”. Just how many voices does one company need?
One thing stands out when going over the list of lobbying parties: Google, Microsoft and Facebook aren’t on this list. Does that mean they didn’t lobby? Well, they certainly did, as can be seen from the Microsoft example above. Furthermore, the documents we obtained are just the lobbying letters.
But who frequents the offices most often? That without a doubt is VNO-NCW, who represents Dutch businesses. They alone send almost a tenth of all the lobby letters.
Discussion behind closed doors
It’s clear that there has been a lot of contact between businesses and the government and that there have been discussions behind closed doors. That in itself is important, but we will talk some more about this in a later blog.
To be continued
Want to continue reading about this? On the Bits of Freedom website, you can find all the lobby documents and the analysis. The next part in this series is about the “innovation” argument.