Trust between EU and US ‘profoundly shaken’ by NSA revelations

European committee calls for stronger privacy safeguards following Snowden revelations

A screengrab shows US whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking via video conference during a panel discussion on internet privacy with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, on Monday. Photograph: Reuters/ACLU

A screengrab shows US whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking via video conference during a panel discussion on internet privacy with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, on Monday. Photograph: Reuters/ACLU

 


An MEP committee of inquiry has called on the EU to develop a digital Bill of Rights in response to the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, highlighting the need to protect the fundamental human right to privacy in the digital age.

The inquiry report highlights the importance of reinforcing ties between Europe and the US which are based on principles of democracy, liberty, justice and solidarity. However, the revelations since June 2013 have raised a number of serious concerns within the EU regarding data protection and privacy.

“Secret services have been acting like cowboys over the last few years,” said social liberal party Democrats 66 member Sophie In’t Veld, who helped conduct the inquiry. “They entered the most private parts of our lives, even through our web cams.”

“This is the very fabric of our democracy we’re talking about. This house will stand for the rights of our citizens. That’s our job.”

Following six months of hearings, British MEP Claude Moraes, who headed the inquiry, has proposed a new digital Bill of Rights and negotiations with the US to ensure stronger safeguards for EU citizens.

The digital Bill of Rights advises the EU to adopt a number of changes, including a conclusion to the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, suspension of the Safe Harbour (transfer of EU personal data to the US) Agreement and suspension of the TFTP (Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme) agreement. It adds that the EU should develop a new “digital deal” for greater IT independence in Europe.

The report calls on US authorities to prohibit blanket mass surveillance and revise its legislation to recognise the privacy of EU citizens. The rights of people living in the EU must be on equal footing with the rights of US citizens, writes the report.

The inquiry also underlines that mass surveillance is incompatible with the human right to freedom of expression, conscience, private life and data protection. It emphasises that trust between the EU and the US has been “profoundly shaken” and that privacy is not a luxury, but a “foundation stone of a free and democratic society.”