U.S. Security Plans Threatens EU Privacy-Watchdog

Discussion in 'ten-forward' started by Smokey, May 24, 2003.

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  1. Smokey

    Smokey Registered Member

    Apr 1, 2002
    Annie's Pub
    "U.S. Security Plans Threatens EU Privacy-Watchdog"

    U.S. plans to set up a system of global electronic surveillance to fight terrorism in the Internet age threaten the basic privacy rights of European Union citizens, the EU's top privacy watchdog told Reuters.

    Hoping to prevent attacks such as those which demolished New York's World Trade Center on September 11, the United States is developing a project -- recently renamed Terrorist Information Awareness -- that would enable U.S. authorities to scan a wide range of public and private data.

    Stefano Rodota, chairman of the EU's national privacy watchdogs, said the plan evoked the specter of George Orwell's Big Brother and called on EU member states to raise the issue at an EU-U.S. summit in June.

    "We have nothing against the U.S. objectives, but the means used to achieve them seem excessive, Orwellian and in contravention of all EU privacy laws," he said in an interview.

    The Pentagon said on Tuesday the controversial $54 million program would include safeguards to protect the civil liberties of U.S. citizens. It was unclear whether these would apply outside the United States. Washington has already irked EU privacy watchdogs by demanding that EU airlines hand over information on passengers traveling to the United States. The European Commission, the EU's executive, has accepted the request, even though it is in breach of EU privacy laws.

    Rodota said the Commission's attitude was too lenient and called on the EU Parliament to apply pressure on the United States to win reassurances that any data collected would not be misused. EU privacy laws say private data can be transferred to a third party only with the individual's consent.

    "We would like to see that formal reassurances are put into practice," said Rodota, who is Italy's privacy controller.

    The EU watchdogs requested and obtained a commitment from U.S. software giant Microsoft to modify its .NET Passport authentication system to meet EU privacy rules.


    Rodota said the EU had been leading the way in adapting privacy safeguards to technological development such as the Internet, as shown by an EU law against unsolicited e-mails or "spam" due to be implemented across the 15-nation bloc by July.

    In the United States, efforts to pass a national law have foundered for years in Congress, though senators at a Commerce Committee hearing recently proposed tougher criminal penalties.

    Still, individual EU member states cannot deter with sanctions spammers based outside the bloc.

    "U.S. companies are reacting by filing lawsuits asking for massive compensation. But for EU firms it is more complex to defend themselves against U.S. spam," Rodota said. "We need an international convention or common rules."

    Besides spam, he said other technological developments also posed a potential threat to the privacy of EU citizens.

    At a meeting in mid-June, the EU watchdogs will tackle the issue of biometric screening, such as face recognition or finger printing, a procedure the United States is considering applying to foreigners entering its borders to weed out terrorists.

    Radio-frequency identification, tiny wireless transmitters applied to clothes, razors and other everyday items to track their movements in stores, are also on the watchdogs' radar. The system is being developed by companies such as Benetton, Nokia and Procter & Gamble.

    "It's an issue that raises some concern," Rodota said.

    Source: Reuters, Brussels
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