February 14, 2014
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution designed to put political pressure on the United States in matters of data protection. While I understand the reasons for this, I believe what underlies this resolution is very worrying.
The EP’s web site yesterday announced: “NSA snooping: MEPs table proposals to protect EU citizens’ privacy“. But in announcing that it will withhold consent for the TTIP trade agreement currently being negotiated unless data protection is part of the deal, and in calling for the immediate suspension of the Safe Harbor, the European Parliament is misleading citizens.
In fact, it is not offering European citizens an iota of protection. Of the three possible mechanisms for sending data to the US, only the Safe Harbor is enforceable under US law and has been enforced by the FTC. US laws regulating access to company data will not be changed by suspension of the Safe Harbor. Indeed, the Parliament has chosen to ignore the fact that equally unsavoury abuses are likely being carried out by European governments.
Worse, as I have argued here before, suspension would be damaging to the European economy. It is perhaps easy to forget that the Safe Harbor is fundamentally a tool the enables European companies to send data to the US for processing. The fact that such transfers take place is evidence of economic value for the European side. Why can’t the European Parliament find a way of putting pressure on the US that doesn’t penalise European companies?
We all know that politicians seeking re-election need headlines. I just would have preferred for the headline to read: “Mass Surveillance: MEPs urge EU and US to reform surveillance laws to protect citizens and the economy”. This was truly a missed opportunity for the European Parliament to take on responsibility for protecting our interests.Chris Sherwood