On the day we fight back against mass surveillance, some European politicians really do care
On The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance (sign here if you haven’t already done so) I took a moment to glance through the draft report prepared by the European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE) on mass surveillance. It will be voted on tomorrow (Wednesday 12 February). It shows that some of our politicians (you can bet that there are few British politicians included) actually do care about our privacy and civil liberties.
After many legalistic pages of having regard to this and whereas that, it gets to the meat. Here’s an example from among many similar paragraphs:
Condemns in the strongest possible terms the vast, systemic, blanket collection of the personal data of innocent people, often comprising intimate personal information; emphasises that the systems of mass, indiscriminate surveillance by intelligence services constitute a serious interference with the fundamental rights of citizens; stresses that privacy is not a luxury right, but that it is the foundation stone of a free and democratic society; points out, furthermore, that mass surveillance has potentially severe effects on the freedom of the press, thought and speech, as well as a significant potential for abuse of the information gathered against political adversaries; emphasises that these mass surveillance activities appear also to entail illegal actions by intelligence services and raise questions regarding the extra-territoriality of national laws;…
That’s paragraph 9, and the rest are in similar vein. Paragraph 14 says:
Strongly rejects the notion that these issues are purely a matter of national security and therefore the sole competence of Member States; recalls a recent ruling of the Court of Justice according to which ‘although it is for Member States to take the appropriate measures to ensure their internal and external security, the mere fact that a decision concerns State security cannot result in European Union law being inapplicable’; recalls further that the protection of the privacy of all EU citizens is at stake, as are the security and reliability of all EU communication networks; believes therefore that discussion and action at EU level is not only legitimate, but also a matter of EU autonomy and sovereignty;…
Then follows 98 paragraphs of recommendations on what to do about it. Basically, it is ‘stop it’, ‘don’t do it again’, and ‘introduce these measures to prevent it’. Lest our American friends – and the American people are our friends – think this is just US-bashing, I should point out that certain EU member states are also criticised. Obviously this is primarily the UK and GCHQ; but the intelligence services of Sweden, Germany and France are also included.
Finally, the report
Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, national data protection authorities, the EDPS, eu-LISA, ENISA, the Fundamental Rights Agency, the Article 29 Working Party, the Council of Europe, the Congress of the United States of America, the US Administration, the President, the Government and the Parliament of the Federative Republic of Brazil, and the United Nations Secretary-General.
It won’t happen of course. And even if it does, it will get no further. It will very rapidly get buried in European bureaucracy, largely at the instigation of the UK and the other major European players who have more to lose than gain in allowing their own citizens the rights they were born with.
But I am greatly fortified by the fact that this report shows some European politicians really do care about privacy and liberty.