Keeping Personal Information Private: Europe responds to NSA Overseas Surveillance

Viviane Reding Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/WorldEconomicForum

Viviane Reding
Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/WorldEconomicForum

The United States NSA, National Security Agency, has not only been keeping track of business at home, but has expanded its network overseas. Recently, Europeans have discovered Prism, an information program put in place by the NSA to scan communications on various online websites, such as Google, Facebook, and Skype. These new revelations were reported by the French newspaper, Le Monde, and have resulted in an enormous outcry from the public as well as from government officials.

On Thursday and Friday, October 24-25, European Union directors met at a summit in Brussels, Belgium. The French minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, announced on Monday, October 21 that the president, François Hollande, demanded something be done about the spying. He called for a plan to be decided at the summit with regards to the protection of personal information shared online. The summit allows for the acceleration of negotiations to reinforce legislation for the protection of private life from spying internet giants.

These bits of personal information shared by Europeans online were transferred to the US without the users’ knowledge. To add insult to injury, there is no way for them to settle the issue in an American court due to the Patriot Act, put in place after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As a result of these events, the European commission for enforcing the protection of personal information, as a part of the EU, made several propositions on Monday. They were presented to the European Parliament, and supported by a vote of forty-nine to one, sending a clear signal to the summit leaders that something must be done.

These propositions were formulated by the European commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding. Reding is working to control the transfer of personal information shared by European internet users and to punish the abuse of such information. The text of her proposal must also be approved with a vote by a plenary session during the next Parliamentary meeting. She has allegedly been trying to get these propositions adopted as laws for the past two years and is hoping that this latest development will act as a catalyst. She is infuriated by the blatant illegality of stealing personal information and denounces any entity that freely shares such information with other businesses.

The new law proposition would involve imposing new limits on internet entities, primarily the large enterprises. It would necessitate preliminary consent from the individuals before using any information they have shared, under a threat of hefty fines. Reding wishes to keep European personal information in Europe and out of the hands of American businesses that actively operate in the region.

She initially called for fines that could reach up to 2% of Google’s, or Facebook’s, figures of the yearly global affairs. On Monday, the European Parliament suggested raising the fines to 5% or 100 million euros. Some countries, such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Ireland, are hesitant, believing the new laws could be too harsh on smaller enterprises.

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  1. […] The European commission for enforcing the protection of personal information, as a part of the EU, has made several propositions regarding Internet security. They were presented to the European Parliament and supported by a vote of 49 to one, sending a clear signal to the Summit leaders that something must be done to reinforce legislation for the protection of private life from information gathering activities on the part of Internet giants. The new law would involve imposing limits on Internet entities, primarily the large enterprises. It would necessitate preliminary consent from… […]

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