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Data protection, NSA votes won; net neutrality next

Glyn Moody | March 20, 2014
Here are the main points of the data protection proposals as summarized in the European Parliament's press release on the vote.

The other big vote was on the European Parliament's inquiry into the mass surveillance of EU citizens. The resolution put together by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee of the European Parliament was backed by 544 votes to 78, with 60 abstentions. Its main recommendations are as follows:

Parliament's should withhold its consent to the final Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the US unless it fully respects EU fundamental rights, stresses the resolution, adding that data protection should be ruled out of the trade talks. This consent "could be endangered as long as blanket mass surveillance activities and the interception of communications in EU institutions and diplomatic representations are not fully stopped", notes the text.

MEPs also call for the "immediate suspension" of the Safe Harbour privacy principles (voluntary data protection standards for non-EU companies transferring EU citizens’ personal data to the US). These principles "do not provide adequate protection for EU citizens" say MEPs, urging the US to propose new personal data transfer rules that meet EU data protection requirements.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) deal should also be suspended until allegations that US authorities have access to EU citizens’ bank data outside the agreement are clarified, insist MEPs.

Again, there are some very strong measures there: suspending Safe Harbour, which lets US companies take Europeans' personal data and do pretty much what they want with it, would throw a real wrench in the US digital economy. However, that's not likely to happen, since it doesn't depend on the European Parliament: it would be for the European Commission to implement, as it does for withdrawing the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme.

However, the European Parliament is quite able to withhold its consent to TAFTA/TTIP - after all, that's precisely what happened with ACTA, which died on the day that MEPs voted against it (actually, it's more of a zombie: not dead outside the EU, but not very alive either...) A lot depends on what happens in the next twelve months in terms of how NSA and GCHQ spying is reined in (if at all), and whether data protection is included in TTIP.

So, in the wake of those two good results, we move on to the next battle - our old friend Net neutrality, which has been rumbling through the European Parliament for ages. La Quadrature du Net has a good summary of the current situation:


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