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    Christian Science Monitor: Is Europe building Big Brother?

    The Christian Science Monitor reports on the issue of surveillance of the public in European nations.

    The EU has tighter restrictions than the United States does on the collection, use, and sale of data by online companies, but also requires Internet service providers to store personal data in case the government ever wants to investigate an individual user. The European Parliament is currently considering passing a law called “Smile29” that would require the Google search engine – which processes billions of searches a month on the Continent – to retain data on users as well. […]

    To critics, the EU laws and the behavior of other governments amount to a surveillance land-grab. In the case of Europe, that’s prompted a groundswell of opposition across Europe. Now a group in Ireland is challenging the new regime – seeking permission from the Irish courts to sue the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to strike down new Irish laws designed to bring the country into line with broader European standards.

    If Digital Rights Ireland, which argues that the laws violate the European Convention on Human Rights, wins, it would set the stage for successful challenges to the rules across Europe. […]

    Across Europe, a backlash against the storage of private data is growing. Civil society groups like the European Federation of Journalists have criticized the practice, and in Germany almost 35,000 people, including Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, sued their own government over the issue. […]

    The EU itself seems to be of two minds when it comes to Internet privacy. While monitoring and surveillance powers have been greatly expanded, the EU body overseeing the effort to expand data retention to search engines under Smile29 complained in a report that EU members are already collecting more information on citizens than they should and “have scarcely provided statistics on the use of data retained under the Directive, which limits the possibilities to verify the usefulness of data retention.”

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