European Parliament hearing on US spying scandal

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The European Parliament has been very active on data protection. In the wake of the LIBE vote on the Data Protection Package – consisting of a Regulation and a Directive – on 21 October, MEPs have questioned three of the world’s biggest IT firms: Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Next to this inquiry, US Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (Republican) met with the members of the LIBE committee.

On 11 November, the representatives of Microsoft, Google and Facebook denied claims that data was transferred to governments. Facebook’s Richard Allan, in charge of public policy for Europe, stated that US and EU agencies made about 10,000 requests to access data in the first half of 2013. Microsoft had received about 7,000 from the US authorities, according to Dorothee Belz, Microsoft’s legal affairs chief. Nicklas Lundblad, Google’s government relations chief, stated: “We have not given the US government access to Google servers either directly or via a back door.”

Sophie in ‘t Veld, a MEP of ALDE, did not buy the arguments from the IT giants and repelled: “You have given carefully drafted legal statements. It reminds me very much of what President Clinton said on the Lewinsky case: ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman.’ It was legally correct, but it had no bearing on the truth.” She claimed that employees from the companies told her different stories in off-the-record talks.
At the same day, Jim Sensenbrenner – a Republican Congressman – explained that the NSA was spying on Europe without the consent of the US Congress. He stated: “I hope that we have learned our lesson and that oversight will be a lot more vigorous.” Mr. Sensenbrenner had the honor to be the first US Congressman to stand before a committee in the European Parliament.

Ecommerce Europe seeks a fair balance between individual rights and business opportunities. It believes that EU citizens’ rights should be safeguarded at all times but that anonymous, pseudonymous and encrypted data should be available to private enterprises as it is valuable information for web shops. We support the idea of legislation on Data Protection but call for a nuanced and proportional approach.

More information
For more information on the LIBE committee’s debates on data transfers with the US, please click here. For the official press release on the inquiry of Microsoft, Google and Facebook, please click here.

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