Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Snowden: Privacy Shield won't stop US mass surveillance

  • Edward Snowden spoke live to an audience in Brussels (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

The US government allegedly continues to engage in mass surveillance on EU citizens despite assurances under a new data-sharing pact with the EU.

Edward Snowden, a former US national security agency intelligence contractor, told an audience in Brussels on Wednesday (7 September) that US government claims surveillance has been narrowed under the new EU-US Privacy Shield data sharing agreement is false.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"It's categorically untrue," he said via video-link from Russia, where he has been granted asylum, at an event organised by German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht.

"Governments don't like to hold themselves out as direct liars, saying something that is attributable and falsifiable," said Snowden.

The whistleblower, whose documents in 2013 revealed a US-led global digital dragnet, said that the Americans are instead twisting language in an effort to convince EU policy and lawmakers of falsehoods.

"They are denying they do mass surveillance, they are saying what we do do is bulk collection, which is in their world something entirely different, but in reality, in our world, it is mass surveillance," said Snowden.

Privacy Shield replaced the 15-year old Safe Harbour pact, which was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice last October over broader concerns linked to US mass surveillance programmes disclosed by Snowden.

Shield, for its part, is supposed to ensure the privacy rights of EU citizens whenever their data is used and then transferred to the US by companies like Google and Microsoft.

Penned between the European Commission and the US Department of Commerce, the transatlantic trade of EU data is said to have been worth over €200 billion annually under the old Safe Harbour scheme.

Snowden is not alone in casting doubts on the latest agreement. Top EU data protection authorities are also wary.

The EU's main regulatory body on privacy, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, earlier this year said US commitments not to carry mass surveillance under the pact were not good enough.

"The possibility that is left in the Shield and its annexes for bulk collection, which if massive and indiscriminate, is not acceptable," working party chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin told reporters in April.

The EU commission, for its part, says they have since received better assurances from the US following Falque-Pierrotin's April criticisms prior to Shield's operational launch at the start of August.

Those assurances centre around signed letters from top US authorities and includes a US-based ombudsperson to help steer compliance.

Some 200 US firms have since signed up to the self-certifying agreement, but many remain concerned the agreement may meet the same fate as Safe Harbour.

A survey of some 600 privacy professionals in the US and EU found that only 34 percent of companies intend to use the Privacy Shield framework.

Conducted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals and the consulting firm EY, the findings, published in late August, revealed that the vast majority will instead rely on other methods to transfer the data.

But those other transfer methods, known as standard contractual clauses, are also on shaky legal grounds and likely to be challenged by the European Court of Justice.

"Companies could be left without a viable legal channel for transferring data across the Atlantic, even as hundreds of billions of dollars in trade hang in the balance," said the report.

WhatsApp's data gathering probed

Germany orders the US firm to stop collecting data "with immediate effect" and Italy wants details on the information it gathers on users.

Trump's anti-privacy order stirs EU angst

The EU commission has said data-sharing pacts with the US will stay in place despite Donald Trump's decision to strip EU nationals of protection.

Watchdogs concerned by EU-US data pact

European data protection authorities tell US to improve oversight on 'Privacy Shield' scheme, otherwise they would go to the EU's highest court.

News in Brief

  1. Belgian PM to host 11 EU leaders ahead of summit
  2. Tusk all but rules out pan-EU candidates in 2019 elections
  3. Tusk: EU budget agreed before 2019 elections 'unrealistic'
  4. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  5. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  6. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  7. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  8. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  9. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  10. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  12. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP

Latest News

  1. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  2. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  3. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  4. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  5. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  6. We are not (yet) one people
  7. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  8. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  3. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  5. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  6. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  7. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  10. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  12. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative