EU calls on U.S. to restore trust post-Snowden surveillance revelations

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding outlines steps for U.S. to take to address data privacy concerns

Six months after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the United States’ spying activities were exposed to the world, the repercussions continue to mount as executives from the European Union this week called for the U.S. to take action to restore trust in the transatlantic flow of data.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said she wanted Washington to follow through on its promise to give all EU citizens the right to sue in the United States if their data is misused, Reuters reports.

“Massive spying on our citizens, companies and leaders is unacceptable. Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic need to be reassured that their data is protected and companies need to know existing agreements are respected and enforced,” Reding said in a statement. “The European Commission is setting out actions that would help to restore trust and strengthen data protection in transatlantic relations.” 

Part of the Commission’s response involves a paper on transatlantic data flows, which lay out the challenges and risks following the revelations of U.S. intelligence collection programs, as well as the steps they say need to be taken to address data security and privacy concerns. Specifically, the Commission called for the U.S. to take action in six areas:

  1. Adoption of the EU’s data protection reform;
  2. Making Safe Harbor safer;
  3. Strengthening data protection safeguards in the law enforcement area;
  4. Using the existing Mutual Legal Assistance and Sectoral agreements to obtain data;
  5. Addressing European concerns in the on-going U.S. reform process; and
  6. Promoting privacy standards internationally.

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program and the question of whether it violates the U.S. Constitution was in the works long before NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations were exposed in May, and it has prompted an international discussion about surveillance and security rights. 

A secret ruling by a U.S. district court judge released in August by the Obama administration reveals that the NSA violated the Constitution for three years by collecting tens of thousands of purely domestic communications without sufficient privacy protection.

In the U.S., domestic criticism of the NSA’s spying tactics have come from technology leaders including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has had strong words for the government’s spy tactics before, saying the NSA has done a bad job balancing personal freedoms and overall security. Recently, Zuckerberg has stepped up his criticism, saying in a television interview that the U.S. government “really blew it” when it comes to national security. 

For more coverage of the NSA’s surveillance program and its impact around the world, check out InsideCounsel’s coverage below:

Qualcomm CEO says NSA surveillance affecting business in China

Facebook CEO says government “blew it” with surveillance tactics

NSA violated U.S. Constitution by collecting domestic data

 

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