European Union far ahead
in protecting private data
as new intrusions mount
The President of France Francois Hollande got a phone call from President Obama. Click image to enlarge.
THE REVELATIONS ABOUT the extent of US government spying on individuals and officials throughout the world keep coming.
The latest embarrassment appeared Monday in the French newspaper Le Monde, where Glenn Greeenwald – who has reported widely on the other scandals – revealed massive monitoring of French citizens and government officials.
This prompted a phone call by President Obama to the president of France.
But the European Union is way ahead of America in recognizing the right to privacy – and doing something about protecting it.
A new set of rules is moving swiftly through the approval process that will make it far harder to pry into the personal communications of the citizens of the 28 member countries of the EU.
America, it seems, is moving in the opposite direction.
WE HAVE REPORTED many times about the stunning revelations released by Edward Snowden and reported on – mostly in The Guardian in the UK – by Glenn Greenwald.
We did so first in NSA broke rules on privacy thousands of times when it became apparent that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
The latest revelations were also reported by Greenwald, with a co-author in Le Monde, the Paris-based daily newspaper.
The story by Glenn Greenwald in Le Monde on Monday with stunning revelations about US spying. Click image to enlarge.
In France in the NSA’s crosshair : phone networks under surveillance Par Jacques Follorou and Glenn Greenwald report:
“According to the documents retrieved from the NSA database by its ex-analyst [Edward Snowden], telephone communications of French citizens are intercepted on a massive scale.
“Le Monde has been able to obtain access to documents which describe the techniques used to violate the secrets or simply the private life of French people. Some elements of information about this espionage have been referred to by Der Speigel and The Guardian, but others are, to date, unpublished.”
According to the report, during a one-month period starting in December 2012, the NSA monitored over 70 million telephone conversations of French citizens.
“According to the elements obtained by Le Monde, when a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call,” the report explains.
Apparently this surveillance system also picks up text messages and their content using key words.
“The NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target – or the meta-data.”
The revelations caused outrage in France, leading to the phone call from the US president, widely reported on Tuesday.
What was less widely reported is an expansion in monitoring and surveillance of individuals under way in the United States.
The New York Times story about new snooping by the TSA on travelers’ backgrounds. Click image to enlarge.
In The New York Times national edition it was on the front page. Here we find the story Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly.
Susan Stellin reports:
“The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information.”
There seems to be no limit to the dragnet being implemented in the name of air travel security.
“While the agency says that the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers’ data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States,” Stellin adds.
Even more alarming is that the nature of the investigations into travelers’ backgrounds is not known.
“It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.”
MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE pond, the European Union is moving aggressively to curtail intrusions into personal privacy.
Also buried inside The New York Times on Tuesday was the story
Rules Shielding Online Data From N.S.A. and Other Prying Eyes Advance in Europe.
The Guardian in the UK covered the phone call between the two presidents on Tuesday. Click image to enlarge.
“A panel of European Union lawmakers on Monday night backed a measure that could require American companies like Google and Yahoo to seek clearance from European officials before complying with United States warrants seeking private data,” James Kanter reported.
The right of privacy is far more advanced under European law than it is in the United States, and the commitment of officials to protecting it has already been demonstrated.
“The vote, by an influential committee at the European Parliament,” Kanter added, “is part of efforts in Europe to shield citizens from online surveillance in the wake of revelations about a far-reaching spying program by the National Security Agency of the United States. The legislation has been under consideration for two years.”
There is no such debate under way in the US. Complacency is the norm.
It is time for a serious diuscussion about the limits on government intrusion into the private lives of Americans. Where is the Tea Party in this discussion? It should be outraged at “big brother” peering into everyone’s private business, but it is so busy hating Obamacare it does not see the forest for the trees.
Concerned Americans should take a cue from our European allies and begin to seriously discuss effective measures to put a cap on how, when and why the government can intercept the communications we hitherto thought were private.
We are on a slippery slope to the Total Information Awareness society envisaged by the Bush/Cheney regime in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. We must stop it before it goes any further.
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