By Sarah Ludford - 20th June 2013
The revelations are new only as to the details. MEPs, myself included, have campaigned for years for the Commission to press the US on how Patriot and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act powers affected Europeans, and to try to ensure that the data of
Sarah Ludford MEP
The aim of the ALDE group on the reform of EU data protection legislation is to have enforceable and workable standards which give consumers assurance that their fundamental rights are respected and companies the confidence they need to invest in innovative business models.
The revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been trawling through ‘metadata’ from ISPs, telecoms companies and social media sites is of deep concern, especially while negotiations on this new Regulation are in train.
But the revelations are new only as to the details. MEPs, myself included, have campaigned for years for the Commission to press the US on how Patriot and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act powers affected Europeans, and to try to ensure that the data of EU citizens is secure from NSA snooping.
We have long been concerned about the ‘conflict of laws’ between EU data protection rules and US intelligence powers.
And it is only thanks to the Liberal Democrats that NSA-type powers were blocked in the UK through the derailing of the Communications Data Bill - the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ - which would have made suspects of us all in the same way as Prism.
The commission's response to date to MEPs' concerns has been lame. I welcome Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding’s response to our concerns in promising to raise the matter with US Attorney General Eric Holder and I hope and trust she will be now be robust.
But the issues of EU data protection law and US intelligence demands, though linked, are separate.
The Commission’s promise on June 11th to MEPs that the new EU Data Protection Regulation would protect companies from the demands of US intelligence services for access to personal data, is both untrue and undeliverable. EU law will not in itself prevent the application of FISA.
Thus the EU must at last resolutely press the case to the Americans that it is unfair for their own citizens to be protected by American constitutional and data privacy protections that EU citizens are denied and also clarify how the clash of laws between our data privacy standards and their surveillance powers is sorted.
Baroness Sarah Ludford is a member of parliament's ALDE group