Merkel Gets Behind Controversial European Data Protection Reform

Angela Merkel - Shutterstock - © 360b

European Commission’s polarising data protection reforms get a boost thanks to Edward Snowden

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given her backing to controversial data protection reforms in the European Union, following the revelations of US surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Merkel said Internet companies should tell Europeans where their data is going, following claims Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others were handing troves of information to the National Security Agency (NSA) as part of the PRISM programme.

In an interview with public broadcaster ARD, Merkel said that whilst the US should not be breaking any member state data protection laws, unified rules were needed.

US Europe America EU - Shutterstock: © argusData protection changes

The European Commission has proposed fresh data privacy rules, which would see companies fined as much as two percent of their annual turnover for any breach of the law and would entrench the “right to be forgotten” in law, which would require providers to wipe user data when users request it.

Many, including the US and UK governments, have voiced protests against the plans, lobbying hard in Brussels to water them down. US firms, including Facebook and Amazon, have been lobbying in earnest too, claiming the rules would impose a significant extra burden on them, especially if they are asked, en masse, to ensure the deletion of customers’ information.

“Germany will take a strict position,” Merkel said. “I expect a clear commitment from the US government that in future they will stick to German law.”

Viviane Reding, the commissioner who has been spearheading European data protection reform, has said the PRISM revelations have given her cause a boost. Speaking in Germany this morning at the DLDWomen13 event, Reding said the Americans had given Europeans “a wake-up call” when it came to privacy.

“Strong rules allow trust and, in the Internet world, without trust you cannot go ahead,” she added, according to AllThingsD.

Germany hasn’t escaped criticism over mass surveillance, however. In comments to magazine Der Spiegel, Snowden said the NSA were “in bed with the Germans, just like most other Western states”.

Snowden is now seeking temporary asylum in Russia, he revealed on Friday, until he can reach another country where he is welcome.

Shhh! Don’t look at our whistleblowers quiz!