Snowden fallout: EU calls on US to restore trust in data flows

27 Nov 2013

The European Commission has listed a number of actions the US should take if it wants to restore trust over data flows between America and Europe.

This was the EU’s official response to the revelation by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden which claimed the US National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on internet traffic from overseas via its PRISM programme, as well as apparently spying on the mobile phones of Europe’s political leaders.

The response takes the form of a strategy paper on transatlantic data flows, and an analysis of the function of ‘Safe Harbor’, a report on the findings of an EU-US working group on data protection.

The EU is calling on the US to swiftly adopt the EU’s data protection reform, make Safe Harbors safer, strengthen data protection safeguards among law-enforcement agencies, address European concerns in the ongoing US reform process and use existing Mutual Legal Assistance and Sectoral agreements to obtain data.

The EU is also seeking a review of existing agreements on Passenger Name Records (PNR) and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP), in which data sharing between law-enforcement agencies is vital.

Opportunity to rebuild trust

“Massive spying on our citizens, companies and leaders is unacceptable,” said European Union justice and rights commissioner Viviane Reding.

“Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic need to be reassured that their data is protected and companies need to know existing agreements are respected and enforced. Today, the European Commission is setting out actions that would help to restore trust and strengthen data protection in transatlantic relations.

“There is now a window of opportunity to rebuild trust ,which we expect our American partners to use, notably by working with determination towards a swift conclusion of the negotiations on an EU-US data protection ‘umbrella’ agreement.

“Such an agreement has to give European citizens concrete and enforceable rights, notably the right to judicial redress in the US whenever their personal data is being processed in the US,” Reding said.

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