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Data privacy issues following PRISM affair

28 August, 2013
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The PRISM scandal has brought forth a series of issues related to the protection of the European citizens’ data and reactions calling for measure to prevent spying on these data.

As the EU is currently updating its data privacy legislation, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the German justice minister, believes the EU needs a new set of data privacy rules, “a package of measures at the EU level against mass spying by foreign secret services," and considers that the "high German data protection standards should be the rule."

EDRi-member Digitale Gesellschaft sent a letter to Justice Minister Leutheusse-Schnarrenberger asking her to take position on the amendments tabled by her political party in Brussels.

The minister has also raised the possibility of new, tangible measures to punish corporations that participate in American spying activities. Also, in July 2013, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the U.S. to observe the German law in intelligence operations in Germany.

"I expect a clear commitment by the U.S. government for the future, that, on German soil, you stick to the German law. We are a friendly partner. We are in a defence alliance and we must be able to rely on each other." She also urged other European governments to work closely together on the issue of data protection and set out tougher data protection laws requiring internet companies to reveal details about who receives personal information from them.

In the meantime, EU data regulators will perform their own investigation into whether privacy rules have been breached by secret US surveillance programmes. In a letter sent on 19 August, to Viviane Reding, Jacob Kohnstamm, Chairman of the Article 29 working party, said that his group would assess the PRISM programme as well as other platforms used by the NSA.

"The WP29 considers it is its duty to also assess independently to what extent the protection provided by EU data protection legislation is at risk and possibly breached and what the consequences of PRISM and related programs may be for the privacy of our citizens’ personal data," said Kohnstamm.

In parallel, Peer Steinbrueck, a candidate to be Germany's next Chancellor, has demanded that EU-US trade negotiations should be stopped in the light of the spying actions revealed. "I would interrupt the negotiations until the Americans say if German government offices and European institutions are bugged or wiretapped," said Steinbrueck in an interview with public broadcaster ARD.

Documents leaked to Der Spiegel by Edward Snowden have revealed that US secret services bugged the offices of the United Nations in New York, and that NSA had cracked the encryption of the videoconference system in the UN. According to the documents obtained by the German magazine, more than 80 US embassies and consulates abroad, including the US consulate in Frankfurt, are involved in a spying programme called Special Collection Service, developed without the knowledge of the host country.

EU needs 'German standards' on data privacy (6.08.2013)
http://euobserver.com/justice/121045

NSA Blowback: German Minister Floats US Company Ban (5.08.2013)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/german-minister-on-eu-com... (5.08.2013)

Letter from Digitale Gesellschaft (only in German, 23.08.2013)
https://netzpolitik.org/2013/eu-datenschutz-justizministerin-versprich...

Espionage: Merkel pushes for international policy (only in German, 14.07.2013)
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/nsa-affaere-merkel-will-inte...

Merkel rival demands halt of EU-US talks (26.08.2013)
http://euobserver.com/political/121203

EU data watchdog to investigate Prism scandal (20.08.2013)
http://euobserver.com/justice/121153

EDRi-gram: The PRISM scandal gets bigger (17.07.2013)
http://www.edri.org/edrigram/number11.14/prism-scandal-again

 

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