Tuesday

9th Mar 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

News in Brief

  1. EU industry lobbies for 'double' CO2 perks
  2. Italy passes 100,000 corona deaths, and it's not over
  3. Mask-buying affairs embarrass Germany's top party
  4. EU talks on Kosovo and Serbia mark 10-year anniversary
  5. Ex-PM says Erdoğan pulling Turkey away from EU
  6. Report: EU to blacklist Myanmar conglomerates
  7. Suspected Chinese hackers hit EU banking regulator
  8. Belgium: Political pressure to abandon curfew

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Von der Leyen on vaccines: 'We're tired of being the scapegoat'
  2. Ethiopia: Time to tell the truth, Ambassador
  3. EU Commission 'surprised' by Belgian travel ban extension
  4. Lack of legal clarity on EU 'pushbacks' of migrants at sea
  5. Africa and Arab world still in vaccine race starting blocks
  6. Frontex's 'serious incident reports' - revealed
  7. Women hit 'disproportionately' hard by Covid-19, report finds
  8. EU 'Future' Conference plus Covid recovery talks This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us