EP wants a better balance between Internet security and privacy rights

By EDRi · March 11, 2009

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Deutsch: [EP will ein besseres Gleichgewicht zwischen Internetsicherheit und den Rechten auf Privatsphäre | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1329]

On 5 March 2009, during a hearing of the Civil Liberties and Home Affairs
(LIBE) Committee focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the current
framework on security and privacy on the Internet, Members of the European
Parliament (EP) and experts agreed on the necessity to create a better
balance between Internet security and the protection of online personal

The participants, including the European Data Protection Supervisor,
academics, representatives of the Commission and of the Czech Presidency,
supported a report drafted by Stavros Lambridinis proposing recommendations
aimed at providing “adequate protection of fundamental freedoms while
delivering also an enhanced security.”

The report calls on the Member States and the European Commission to draft
proposals defining global standards for data protection, security and
freedom of expression. The rapporteur believes the access to the internet
should be treated just like the access to education and should never be
blocked by governments or private companies. He also considers that the
user’s consent to share data should be clearly defined to create a fairer
balance of powers between users and governments and private companies.

EDPS Peter Hustinx said that as the Internet has become an integral part of
our everyday life, “we must apply the same values as we do in our society
(…), fundamental rights must apply and that’s that. (…) In the old world
it was fairly simple. On the internet there is a system of layers,
responsibility is more complex and therefore tends to vanish. This must be

Hustinx emphasized the fact that the present European regulatory framework
applying to the Internet is a holistic one and that a horizontal approach
was needed. In his opinion, the Data Protection Directive applying to the
Internet does not give a very clear definition of personal data on the
Internet and that the current responsibility and control mechanisms should
be also clarified and improved. He believes a key issue is that of the
user’s consent for data sharing. Presently, there is a large range of types
of online consents which leads to a complex regulatory environment. It is
also difficult now to reach transparency of the data processing. The EDPS
added that he did not want to see “an environment of permanent surveillance”
(making reference to three-strikes schemes), that international cooperation
and self-regulation should be promoted and children awareness-raising should
be increased.

During the hearing, Gus Hosein of Privacy International expressed his
concern related to the fact that the EU seems to have followed Bush
administration as regards data retention. “Is that what you want to export
to the rest of the world? The EU should be a ray of light for human rights
but at the moment it’s the opposite (…) we must change course and the
Lambrinidis report is the opportunity to turn things round,” he said.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, warned about
potential dangers of an uncontrolled use of personal data by
the governments and public institutions and asked the EU for a close
monitoring and the issue. In his opinion, transparency and user consent must
be clear rules and strict regulation should apply to protect personal data.
He believes it is important “to ensure that a charter of rights comes into
being very soon”.

Professor Steve Peers from University of Essex, the author of “Strengthening
security and fundamental freedoms on the Internet – An EU Policy on the
fight against cybercrime” study commissioned by the EP, also made some
recommendations. He believes in the necessity of adopting a non-binding
Internet Bill of Rights, drawn up by the EP and supported by industry
players, NGOs, Member States, EU institutions and national public
authorities. He also recommended that the EU criminal law should be brought
in line with the provisions of the different Council of Europe Conventions
regarding offences related to data interception, breach of confidentiality
and data security, spam or child pornography.

As final remarks of the hearing, the Presidency representative, Mr Ondrej
Veselský, Head of International Law Department at the Ministry of Interior
of the Czech Republic, stated that a balance between privacy and security
should be achieved, that the rules of the “real world” should apply to the
Internet as well, that access to the Internet should be open and that a
larger cooperation is necessary in the fight against cybercrime. He stated
that one of the priorities of the Czech Presidency was the protection of
minors and the presidency intended to improve the cooperation between the
different police of the Member States.

Stavros Lambridinis’s report will be put to the vote at the Strasbourg full
plenary session of the European Parliament on 23 March 2009.

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs – Streanghening
Fundamental Freedoms and Security on the Internet (5.03.2009)

EP Press Release – Protecting citizens’ rights on the internet (6.03.2009)

Europeans push for more online rights to privacy (6.03.2009)