Representatives from two leading technology associations warned that the breadth of new proposed European Commission data protection regulations would potentially impede economic growth.

The European Commission’s new proposal attempts to reform the EU’s 1995 data protection rules for online privacy.

The proposal, which was released today, includes two legislative initiatives. One would establish a general EU framework for data protection; the other involves a directive protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offenses and related judicial activities.

In response to the proposal, Mark MacCarthy, vice president for public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries, responded to the proposal, saying:

“We welcome revisions that would make it easier for global companies to demonstrate compliance with the EU privacy regime, and to ease the administrative burdens.

“However, SIIA is concerned that the breadth of these proposed regulations threaten the internet economy and impede economic growth and job creation,” he said.

Similarly, James Lovegrove, managing director for TechAmerica Europe, said the trade group welcomed the efforts of the Commission to “lay down new, modernized rules for the future of data protection in Europe,” noting “greater harmonization and simplification of the law are vital for growth of the internal single market.”

In particular, he called the introduction of a legal principle clarifying applicable law and jurisdiction as well as the introduction of a lead data protection authority a step forward.

However, he added, “the real concern is that many of the proposed rules will inhibit the free flow of information globally and make it difficult for global businesses to operate and invest in Europe due to greater legal uncertainty, increased administrative burdens and the risk of fines,” he said.

“This is particularly troublesome at a time of an unprecedented crisis when Europe needs to attract investment, business and growth,” he said. “As the global discussion about consumer privacy continues it is imperative that the E.U. and the U.S. maintain a constructive dialogue in order to ensure that data protection policies do not unnecessarily inhibit technological innovation and global information flows,” he said.

Both organizations called for further discussions and debate on the proposals.

Photo caption: European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) and new elected EU Parliament president Martin Schulz give a joint press conference after their working session on January 24, 2012 at the EU Headquarters in Brussels. AFP PHOTO GEORGES GOBET.