March 17, 2014

European Commission prepares to surrender our privacy

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In my previous post I wrote that in the US – EU trade negotiations (TTIP / TAFTA) the US tabled a proposal that will undermine our privacy. I asked the EU chief negotiator a question about this. He did not acknowledge the issue, so he keeps open the option to surrender our privacy.

Negotiations

Last week the 4th round of US – EU trade negotiations (TTIP) took place. On Wednesday chief negotiators Dan Mullaney (US) and Ignacio Garcia Bercero (EU) gave a briefing to stakeholders.

A few hours earlier the European Parliament adopted its version of the EU privacy law reform and adopted a resolution calling for suspension of flows of personal data to the US.

These two votes show the problem with privacy. The EU has stronger privacy protection than the US, but once our personal data leaves the EU, the protection falls away. To protect our privacy, it is essential to have the power to suspend cross border flows of personal data, as it can force US companies to respect our privacy. As explained earlier, in the TTIP negotiations the US tabled a proposal that will undermine our power to suspend cross border flows of personal data.

Suspension of flows of personal data

At the stakeholders briefing, I asked the negotiators a question regarding suspension of data flows.

“I have a question on privacy, on personal data. This afternoon the European Parliament adopted a resolution which calls for the suspension of flows of personal data to the United States. This is a very strong instrument because it is the only way to make US companies comply with good privacy rules. The US tabled a proposal which would outlaw such suspension of data flows. There is a direct conflict with the European Parliament position, what is the comment of the negotiators on this?”

Reassuring words

Garcia Bercero said that the commission has taken a very clear position throughout this discussion which is that they are not going to be negotiating in this context issues relating to data privacy. The commission is ready to talk about issues relating to data flows but it is very clear that any substance relating to data flows has to be in accordance with European legislation on data privacy, present or future.

Mullaney talked about the importance of data flows, said that the ability to transfer data is in a way the backbone of the US – EU relationship and that the US thinks that the agreement can and should address data flows, it should facilitate this backbone, and they are confident that as they move forward that they are able to put in place provisions that facilitate flows of data in a way that respect the privacy on both sides.

Reassuring words?

Reassuring words. What are they worth?

First, the US track record on privacy is terrible. In the TTIP negotiations US companies and members of Congress want to ensure that all types of businesses can transfer data without problems. The US tabled a proposal that will undermine our privacy.

Second, the EU track record on cross border flows of personal data is weak. The commission is fine with the flows to the US, which the parliament calls to suspend. The EU – South Korea agreement contains insufficient safeguards. TTIP should not change our privacy standards, as privacy is not in the commission’s negotiating mandate. But the whole point is that the US proposal will make our privacy laws unenforceable. The US tabled a proposal that will undermine our power to suspend cross border flows of personal data.

Garcia Bercero did not acknowledge the issue, he keeps open the possibility to surrender our privacy.

Secrecy

Secrecy, general reassurances and inability to acknowledge real issues: these people learned nothing from ACTA.

To stop TTIP, the protests will have to be 20 times as big as the protests against ACTA were. If the commission goes on like this, it will get them.

If you care for your privacy, for digital rights, do take a look at the wepromise website.