US privacy groups believe US officials lobby to weaken EU privacy
A coalition of 18 US privacy groups sent a letter on 30 January 2013 to US politicians such as the Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, asking for assurances that US policy makers in Europe "advance the aim of privacy" and do not hinder the European data law proposals.
The European Union is considering the data protection regulation that could give the citizens significant control over the use of their personal data by websites and marketing companies. Several proposals would require companies to obtain permission before collecting personal data and specify exactly what information will be collected and how it will be used.
One proposal refers to the so-called “right to be forgotten” that obliges companies like Facebook to delete all information about users who want to do that. The coalition shows concern over the fact that, as the new EU Data Protection Regulation is under discussion and debate, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have lately reported that US policy makers are "mounting an unprecedented lobbying campaign to limit the protections that European law would provide."
The privacy groups believe that U.S. policymakers, politicians and bureaucrats are undermining the work of the European Parliament. "The U.S. should not stand in the way of Europe's efforts to strengthen and modernize its legal framework," the letter states. Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy told ZDNet that despite President Obama’s pro-privacy speeches, his administration is "working to protect the U.S. data lobby."
He added: "One of the U.S.' few growth areas is stealing other peoples data. So, the U.S. is arguing that the EU should not enact strong baselines rules requiring citizens to provide affirmative consent for such critical uses as profiling, and adopt its weak industry friendly approach based primarily on industry self-regulation."
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in 2012 that the lobbying effort had been "absolutely fierce" and unprecedented in scale.
On 3 February 2013, the head of a big pan-European industry group revealed "intensifying pressure from U.S. lobbyists on behalf of Google and Facebook," as reported the Financial Times. Jacob Kohnstamm, the chairman of the EU's Article 29 Working Party also said European lawmakers were "fed up" of U.S. lobbying.
The letter of the coalition notes that updating the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), under which authorities need only a subpoena approved by a federal prosecutor, rather than a judge, to obtain electronically stored messages six months old or older, would be a good start for the U.S. officials to bring the country in compliance with international human rights standards.
The US lobby has shown its practical results after several newspapers and websites have pointed out that MEPs in the EP's Internal Market and Consumer Committee (IMCO) have included copy-paste amendments written by Amazon, eBay or the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham EU).
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