Privacy advocates from around the world asked the European Union to be more aggressive in protecting the data protections of its citizens in a statement written at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in Washington, DC this week.
A dozen groups from both sides of the Atlantic joined the “Washington Statement,” including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), European Digital Rights (EDRi), British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), and Privacy International, which argues that programs described by National Security Agency (NSA) leaks violated the human right to privacy set out by Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
European citizens generally have greater data protections than their American counterparts, but the European Union is currently reforming its general data protection framework for the private sector. In light of the timing of that reform and the leaks, the Washington Statement asks the E.U. parliament specifically:
• to set a high standard and ensure that E.U. data protection law sets a global standard for privacy;
• to ensure specific rights of individuals are being preserved, such as explicit consent to personal data processing, the right to access, rectification and certain rights to erasure that are in the existing European legal framework,
• to ensure basic principles that would help protect citizens against untargeted and disproportionate surveillance measures, such as data minimization, purpose limitation, limited storage periods and notification procedures,
• to ensure that personal data processed in the E.U. is not transferred to third country authorities without a determination that there are adequate privacy safeguards.
Viviane Reding, vice-president in charge of justice for the European Commission, raised concerns about the programs revealed by the leaks earlier in the month saying the executive body is “concerned about the possible consequences on E.U. citizens’ privacy.” However, a number of news reports have suggested European governments participated in information sharing with the PRISM program to some extent.
President Obama defended the NSA programs to a European audience during a visit to Germany earlier this month, describing them as “narrow” and saying he was “confident that at this point, we have struck the right balance” between national security and constitutionally guarantee privacy rights.