Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

US spy scandal prompts redraft of EU data bill

  • US leader Barack Obama told press in Berlin on Wednesday that Prism has saved lives in Europe (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

EU institutions aim to revive an anti-snooping clause in their data protection bill, even though it would do nothing to stop a US-type operation.

The so called article 42 in the new regulation would create a legal framework on transfer of data to third countries, including the United States.

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

The European Commission relegated it to a footnote in its original draft of the document.

But justice commissioner Viviane Reding told the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday (19 June) that she does not object to a proposal, put forward by some MEPs, to give it full legal force.

"If the parliament thinks that out of the recital there should be made an article, so be it. I have no objections to this," she said.

Reding spoke following the revelations that US intelligence services conducted a massive-scale snooping operation, dubbed Prism, on EU citizens using the Clouds of US firms with branches in Europe.

Article 42 is known in EU circles as the "anti-Fisa clause" because the US carried out Prism under its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa).

But in reality, it would do nothing to stop a Prism-type operation even if gets back in.

A European Parliament source close to the file told EUobserver the clause will force the EU and US to negotiate in future on how to resolve a current jurisdictional clash.

He said US companies with subsidiaries in Europe are caught between two legal regimes.

The US demands that they maintain secrecy about its requests for personal data. But in the EU, they are required to notify the person in question that the US is requesting their information.

When asked by this website if inserting 42 into the text would stop Prism-type activity, he said: "Of course not, [but] it is a strategic decision to force the issue in the future."

Meanwhile, another weakness in the EU bill is that only a small portion of data on the Cloud is considered "personal data."

MEPs are debating the definition of personal data, with some aiming to exclude pseudonymous data altogether from the regulation.

The European Data Protection Supervisor and the EU parliament's lead negotiator on the file, German Green Jan Albrecht, want pseudonymous data included.

Such data does not explicitly name a person but uses other identifiers to single him or her out.

For her part, Reding also weighed in on the US surveillance issue on Wednesday.

“It is a wake-up call … [it is] urgent that we proceed with a solid legislation [on data protection]," she told MEPs.

She said it is necessary to act quickly.

“A delay [on the EU data bill] would play into the hands of those who would not strengthen data protection,” she noted.

But the vote this week suffered another setback in the EU legislative machine.

The EU parliament committee currently handling the dossier now says the vote will mostly likely take place in September or October.

It was originally scheduled for April.

Reding along with home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Wednesday also wrote to the US department of justice over the spy scandal.

The letter - seen by this website - is addressed to the secretary of the US department of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.

It asks Napolitano to provide written responses to questions on Prism and to set up a meeting in July to discuss EU and US data protection.

Reding already sent a letter to US attorney general Eric Holder on June 10.

Some, but not all of her questions, were answered at a ministerial meeting on 14 June in Dublin.

News in Brief

  1. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  2. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  3. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  4. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  5. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  6. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'
  7. Luxembourg mockery of British leader sparks 'anger'
  8. Majority of Belgians against excluding Vlaams Belang

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

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us