“Germany is a country of freedom.”

That’s the inspiring title Chancellor Angela Merkel is using to push an eight-point program aiming to protect online privacy through German parliament.

After facing criticism for not taking a strong enough stand on the NSA spying scandal, Merkel’s political party CDU introduced the new project to parliament a month ago. Yesterday, the first concrete steps to consolidate the plan were made. One potential change would see Germany suspend administrative agreements with the U.S., Britain, and France. The agreement means these countries are allowed to use their German-based forces to investigate mail and telecommunications networks in cases where their secret or intelligence services believe it is necessary in the interest of security.

The second proposal would make surveillance by businesses a lot harder by introducing a new procedure for transferring data, meaning businesses that want to send data from country to country would have to receive authority to do so from Brussels. It would also mean it’d be more difficult to get accesses to such data; businesses will need to have concrete suspicions to do so.

German Minister for Economics and Technology, Philipp Rösler, establishing himself further as the champion for startups of current government, also pushed for new Europe-wide initiatives to improve innovation and digitalisation. He’s in talks with the EU commission to work on more secure cloud computing and better cooperation between the digital economy and established industries.

Ripe time to create alternatives to US comms companies

“We have to show that we’re competitive and can become system leaders in the information and communications technology industry. We need a strong European IT industry that can offer alternatives (to U.S. companies). We need an information and communications technology strategy that encourages top-level research, the development of digital technologies and allows optimal growth conditions for businesses and innovative startups in Europe”, Rösler said in a media release.

However, a spokesperson for opposing party, SPD, criticised the eight-point program, claiming it “bypasses the essence of the matter: to set a clear boundary for the NSA that the mass surveillance of Germans must be stopped.” The party said the goals of the program are too vague and that the current ruling party has still not taken a clear position on data protection.

This story originally appeared on VentureVillage. Copyright 2013

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