Security

Without NSA spying changes, Europe will stop sharing commercial and security data with the U.S.

surveillance spy cameras
Image Credit: Ludovic Bertron

Shockingly, people seem to get upset when you spy on them.

The European Commissioner for justice and rights, Viviane Reding, is threatening to freeze existing data-sharing agreements between the U.S. and Europe, including swaps of terrorist-fighting information, data that European companies and U.S. companies trade each other for, and data on airline passengers crossing the Atlantic.

Viviane Reding

Above: Viviane Reding

That’s not only because European citizens are being spied upon without their consent, Reding says, but also because they have no legal means of redress to correct any infringement of their rights. Americans actually have that right in Europe, if they choose to exercise it.

“Things have gone very badly indeed,” Reding told The Guardian. “For two years I have asked for reciprocity.”

The NSA and its quasi-legal spying programs is quickly becoming public enemy number one for the U.S.’s image and standing internationally. It’s also making it more difficult for U.S. businesses such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to do business internationally. As part of Reding’s attempt to gain legal reciprocity for EU citizens in the U.S., her commission is also drafting new rules for those American companies that will require that they ensure European data is not transferred to the U.S. without consent and that U.S. intelligence agencies will not get access to it.

Which, of course, would make life a little more difficult for international companies such as Facebook.

It’s hard to have a global social network if the company can’t combine data on you and your overseas friends. And, frankly, any appearance of a status update from a French friend that appears in your Facebook news feed might be construed as transferring your data to the U.S. It would certainly be using undersea cables that the NSA and other spy agencies are known to have tapped.

There is a way for the U.S. to fix this — and to ensure that the EU continues to participate with the U.S. on anti-terrorism activities — says Cecilia Malmström, the EU commissioner for home affairs:

“Serious concerns still remain following the revelations. If the US wants to overcome current tensions, they need to shed full light on … the NSA revelations.”

That is something the American government has been continually unwilling to do.