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7/17/13

Germany: Merkel Urges Europe to Tighten Safeguards and Rules on US Internet Companies - by James Kanter

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is calling for the European Union to adopt legislation requiring Internet companies to disclose what information about users they store and to whom they provide it.

Ms. Merkel’s remarks, in a television interview on Sunday night, reflected the anger throughout much of Europe, including Germany, over recent accounts of government surveillance by the United States National Security Agency. Those accounts, in government documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor, included the agency’s compilation of logs of virtually all telephone calls in the United States and its collection of e-mails of foreigners from the major American Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and Skype.

Those companies have already begun aggressive lobbying campaigns to stop or dilute tighter privacy rules, which they say would interfere with their business models and decrease profits and growth. The companies’ efforts are, in turn, supported by countries like England and Ireland that fear that such restrictions would hamper economic recovery. 

Unlike many citizens in the United States, whose desire to prevent the kind of widespread terrorist attacks like those of Sept. 11, 2001, often trumps their concerns about privacy rights and government surveillance, Germans have experienced the corruption of those rights under the Nazis and later the Communist government of East Germany, making them far more sensitive to the issue. Until now, though, Germany has been slow to back an aggressive privacy initiative across Europe partly because the country’s laws are among the tightest in the bloc. 

Ms. Merkel said she now believed that only a broader pact could be effective. “That has to be part of such a data privacy agreement because we have great regulation for Germany, but if Facebook is registered in Ireland, then it falls under Irish jurisdiction,” she said. “Consequently we need a common European agreement.” 

Note EU-Digest: the EU Parliament and the EU Commission hopefully will act immediately on these suggestions by Mrs. Merkel. The situation in relation to privacy rights of EU Citizens and the flagrant abuses by  foreign internet companies of these rights is completely getting out of hand.  

Read more: Merkel Urges Europe to Tighten Internet Safeguards - NYTimes.com

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