Sunday

21st Jul 2019

Estonian President: EU citizens should trust the state on data rights

  • Ilves: 'We need to be much less concerned today about the state being the bad guy' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Estonia's President told data protection experts in Brussels on Wednesday (23 January) that the state is the only "fundamental guarantor of a citizen's digital life."

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who also chairs a steering group that advises the European Commission on cloud computing, said the state has to step in where the market has failed to protect people's online data.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We need to be much less concerned today about the state being the bad guy. It's not gone away, but that's not the big problem," said Ilves at a panel on cyber security moderated by Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld.

For their part, other panellists noted that state sanctioned digital espionage is on the rise.

Professor Bart Jacobs, a cyber security expert at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, said that Chinese hackers last summer broke into EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy's email account.

The Chinese deny the attack.

But as well as accusing Beijing, Jacobs claimed the information was used to speculate on the market and to make a lot of money.

"Mr Van Rompuy, whose email server was hacked this summer, I even heard that the information from this server which was of high value at the time was subsequently used to speculate on the market and make a lot of money," said Jacobs.

He said that while the Chinese are probably the biggest culprits in digital espionage, they are not alone. Countries in the West are also implicated.

In some cases, the debates are shifting towards allowing the police, for instance in the Netherlands, to hack into people's computers even if they live outside the country, for the sake of criminal investigations.

"It's really far reaching," said Jacobs.

EU states want IT companies to hand over data

Meanwhile, a transparency report released by Internet giant Google the same day said EU governments are making a record number of demands to obtain data on its citizens.

Requests for Google users' browsing history, email communications, documents and IP have jumped by 100 percent since the Internet company started publishing the transparency reports three years ago.

Some 7,254 requests were made on 9,240 users in the EU between July and December 2012, averaging over 1,200 requests a month.

UK-based NGO Privacy International (PI) said the figures represent over a third of all requests made by governments worldwide during the same period.

Google refused to comply with over 50 percent of all requests from Italy, France, Spain and Germany because their demands were disproportionate in scope, unlawful or submitted incorrectly, said the NGO.

The company also fulfilled just 17 percent of user data requests from the Polish government.

"Governments must stop treating the user data held by corporations as a treasure trove of information they can mine whenever they please, with little or no judicial authorisation," said PI’s head of international advocacy, Carly Nyst, in a statement.

Google said the requests primarily involve criminal investigations.

It added that a single request is sometimes made for several types of data and that in some cases they notify the user in advance that a government police agency wants to pry into their accounts.

But with companies often hushing-up data breaches for the sake of their reputations, the EU is keen for more transparency on who can be trusted to protect consumer's rights.

The European Commission plans to issue later this month a new cyber security policy that will require companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to disclose if hackers break into their systems and to face sanctions if they were at fault.

US free to grab EU data on American clouds

An obscure section in a US law is said to entitle authorities to access, without a warrant, data stored by any EU citizen on clouds run by American companies.

EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

EU states ought to undergo a yearly "Rule of Law Review Cycle" to help stop countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Romania from backsliding on EU norms, the European Commission has said.

EU defends US data pact, as Facebook court case opens

An Austrian privacy campaigner vs Facebook over the future of data transfers to the US case opened at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday. The European Commission, meanwhile, says the Privacy Shield pact is working fine.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us