By Epicenter.works

EDRi member epicenter.works, together with 20 NGOs, is urging the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to take action towards ensuring the finalisation of the e-Privacy reform. The group, counting the biggest civil society organisations in Austria such as Amnesty International and two labour unions, demands in an open letter sent on 6 November 2018 an end to the apparently never-ending deliberations between the EU member states.

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It is today 666 days since the European Commission launched its proposal. The e-Privacy regulation is an essential aspect for the future of Europe’s digital strategy and a necessity for the protection of modern democracies from ubiquitous surveillance networks. Echoing European citizens rightful demands for protections of their online privacy, the organisations ask the Austrian Presidency to lead the way into a new privacy era by concluding the e-Privacy dossier by 2019.

The letter comes in a context in which a parliamentary inquiry from the Austrian Social Democratic party tries to shed light on the lobby connections of the Austrian government regarding the hampering of secure communications for its citizens. Right now, the Austrian government’s position is closely aligned with the interests of internet giants like Facebook and Google, big telecom companies and the advertisement industry.

The Austrian government has recently fast-tracked negotiations on the controversial e-evidence proposal, which would weaken the rule of law and foster further surveillance of citizens’ online behaviour. This is a stark contrast to the meager effort Austrian representatives put into negotiations around legislative proposals that aim to protect the fundamental right to privacy – a topic missing from the Austrian Council Presidency agenda.

In order to ensure that e-Privacy laws will not be used as excuse for the establishment of new repressive instruments, epicenter.works demands a clear commitment to the prohibition of data retention. Data retention has been found unconstitutional in different European countries, while epicenter.works was plaintiff in the 2014 proceedings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) annulling the data retention directive. A circumvention of the ECJ’s ban through the e-Privacy regulation could expose EU citizens to indiscriminate mass-surveillance and severely undermine trust in EU institutions.

Open Letter sent to Austrian Government (in German only, 06.11.2018)
https://epicenter.works/content/offener-brief-wir-brauchen-eprivacy

Parliamentary inquiry from the Austrian Social Democratic Party (in German only, 29.10.2018)
https://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXVI/J/J_02174/index.shtml

Council continues limbo dance with the ePrivacy standards (24.10.2018)
https://edri.org/council-continues-limbo-dance-with-the-eprivacy-standards/

ePrivacy: Public benefit or private surveillance? (24.10.2018)
https://edri.org/eprivacy-public-benefit-or-private-surveillance/

ECJ: Data retention directive contravenes European law (09.04.2014)
https://edri.org/ecj-data-retention-directive-contravenes-european-law/

(Contribution by Thomas Lohninger, EDRi member epicenter.works)

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