European citizens need better protection from state-sponsored spying, warns top EU watchdog
European citizens need to be better shielded from the snooping and spying activities from the likes of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ. says Europe’s top data protection official, Peter Hustinx.
Ahead of an EU summit next week on home affairs and justice, Hustinx wrote to the European Council President warning that mass surveillance was destroying people’s trust in governments and businesses.
Hustinx said that European Union countries need tighter controls to prevent the kind of mass surveillance and spying activities, revealed by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Hustinx expressed his concern in an open letter to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, in which he highlighted concerns that the role of data protection is not being taken seriously enough, and urged the creation of a European privacy framework.
“The importance of data protection in building the European area of freedom, security and justice cannot be overstated,” wrote Hustinx. “The allegations of mass surveillance by security services have rocked the trust in the ability and willingness of governments and businesses to protect individual’s personal information.
“Recent judgements from the European Court of Justice, on the Data Retention Directive and on the right to request removal of data on search engines, have banished any lingering doubts over the need for EU activities to uphold the fundamental rights to privacy and to data protection. This is of strategic relevance not only for future policies in justice and home affairs but for the EU’s wider agenda for growth and investment in the digital economy.”
“It is therefore vital for a strong and modernised data protection framework in the EU to be adopted as soon as possible, and for privacy and data protection considerations to be mainstreamed into all new policies and legislation,” he wrote.
Hustinx is the man in charge at the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), an independent supervisory authority devoted to protecting personal data and privacy in EU institutions and bodies. So his warning should carry some weight with European leaders and officials.
Hustinx’s warning comes just after the Irish High Court asked European top court (the European Court of Justice) to review the data sharing “Safe Habour” agreement between Europe and the US. The EU is set to discuss Safe Harbour, with the United States on Wednesday.
The Irish request came at the behest of Max Schrems, an Austrian post-graduate law student, who is the founder and driving force behind the europe-v-facebook group. Schrems argues that the Edward Snowden disclosures show that there is no effective data protection regime in the United States.
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