European digital surveillance proposal to come under scrutiny

19 Jun 2009

The European Union is considering a proposal to set out the use of techniques and technologies for digital surveillance of its 500 million citizens that would include co-operating with the US.

Tomorrow, leading civil rights and justice expert Tony Bunyan will look at the proposal of the EU Future Group report ‘Freedom, Security and Privacy – the area of European Home Affairs’at an event at the Law Society of Ireland organised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

The EU is currently developing a new five-year strategy for justice and home affairs and security policy for 2009-2014. The proposals set out by the Future Group include a range of measures comprising techniques and technologies of surveillance and enhanced co-operation with the US.

Bunyan’s analysis suggests that European governments and EU policy-makers are pursuing means to access and gather personal data on the everyday life of individuals, on the grounds that society will be safe and secure from perceived “threats”.

“The Council of the European Union, the European Commission, national governments, the law enforcement agencies and the multinationals believe that technology, not values and morality, should drive change. They believe they have balanced freedom and security, when all with eyes and ears to see and hear know that liberties and freedoms have been made subservient to the demands of security,” Bunyan said.

“The national and European states require unfettered powers to access and gather masses of personal data on the everyday life of everyone, so that we can all be safe and secure from perceived ‘threats’. But how are we to be safe from the state itself, from its uses and abuses of the data it holds on us?,” he asked.

“If we do not have an open and meaningful debate now, we never will, because by then it will be too late,” Bunyan warned.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years