Last week, an opinion by Yves Bot, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice, called into question a data sharing deal between the US and the European Union. The Safe Harbor deal provides the framework for tech companies to move data between servers located in the European Union and the US, without violating privacy protection laws. Bot believes that the deal is inadequate to protect the privacy of European citizens, and the NSA will seize the data of European citizens without due process once it has reached American servers. Although the opinion of the Advocate General is not binding, it has a great deal of influence on the court’s ruling.
The US Mission to the European Union has issued a public response to this issue. It notes that Bot did no fact-finding in this case, but accepted the facts as found by the Irish High Court. It claims several of the facts regarding NSA surveillance which were accepted by the Irish Court were untrue.
The United States does not and has not engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of anyone, including ordinary European citizens. The PRISM program that the Advocate General’s opinion discusses is in fact targeted against particular valid foreign intelligence targets, is duly authorized by law, and strictly complies with a number of publicly disclosed controls and limitations. Moreover, the Advocate General’s opinion fails to take into account that — particularly in the last two years – President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to enhance transparency and public accountability regarding U.S. intelligence practices, and to strengthen policies to ensure that all persons are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality or place of residence.
The US Mission also warns that this issue goes beyond the Safe Harbor Agreement. It argues that a ruling by the court that overturns Safe Harbor could, “undercut the ability of other countries, businesses and citizens to rely upon negotiated arrangements with the European Commission.” The statement concludes with by stating the importance of Safe Harbor for both trade and privacy of EU and US citizens, and asks the European Court of Justice to take these arguments into account when it makes its ruling.
Is the US Mission to Europe trustworthy, or is the NSA still a threat to European data? Leave your comments below.