Google wants US Privacy Act powers extended to EU citizens

13 Nov 2014

Tech giant Google has come out in support of greater powers for EU citizens in the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations last year.

Ahead of a meeting between new EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova and US officials in Washington this week, David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google, has called on the US government to extent certain rights of Americans to European citizens.

“Right now, European citizens do not have the right to challenge misuse of their data by the US government in US courts – even though American citizens already enjoy this right in most European countries,” Drummond wrote in a blog post.

Drummond said there is urgent need for surveillance reform, and “Google and many other technology companies have urged the US to take the lead and introduce reforms that ensure government surveillance activity is clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. Sadly, we’ve seen little serious reform to date.” 

Indeed, the European Commission has been lobbying for such reform for quite awhile now, with MEP Viviane Reding – a predecessor of Jourova – having called in November 2013 for Washington to give all EU citizens the right to sue in the US if their data is misused.

“I have … made clear that Europe expects to see the necessary legislative change in the US sooner rather than later, and in any case before summer 2014,” Reding said at the time.

However, US President Barack Obama is reportedly already in favour of these moves, so Google’s protestations will make little impact on US policy.

Drummond was in Europe as part of Google’s ‘Right to be forgotten’ roadshow up until two weeks ago, which itself drew criticism from some lobby groups.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic