German justice minister says the European Union needs tougher data protection laws, with sanctions against US firms that violate them.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said Monday that Germany’s strong privacy rules serve as the ideal standard for the 28-member EU, amid revelations of intruding US surveillance policies.
“We need a package of measures at the EU level against mass spying by foreign secret services,” the minister said, adding that “High German data protection standards should be the rule. US companies that do not uphold these standards should be banned from the European market.”
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also called for stronger parliamentary oversight of intelligence services, entailing “regular, intensive exchanges of information between the supervisory committees.”
“The standard for privacy protection in the digital age should not be set by the global intelligence services but be based on the basic rights of citizens,” said the German libertarian.
The EU has recently announced that it is planning to assemble an independent intelligence body of its own in “an urgent response” to the recent revelation that the US has been spying on EU officials as well as European citizens.
EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding said last month that European data protection laws must change, as the trust between EU member states and the United States has been lost.
The comments came after US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that Washington has been engaged in extensive espionage activities on a global scale.
The disclosures caused global outrage with demands by several countries for full clarification from the US.
Moreover, the revelations showed that Great Britain’s three main spying agencies also used advanced technology to access transatlantic fiber-optic cables, which carried phone calls and internet traffic across the world. The retrieved tapped information was also shared with the US National Security Agency (NSA), which is at the heart of the US spying scandal.
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