Wednesday, March 12, 2014

European Parliament Passes Resolution against NSA Surveillance, Tightens Data Protections

Today, the European Parliament passed a resolution against the blanket surveillance carried out by the NSA and other kindred spying agencies. 

The resolution set out the findings of the Civil Liberties Committee inquiry into mass surveillance of EU citizens as well as the recommendations it made to boost EU citizens’ privacy. The resolution stresses that the EP should withhold consent from the final Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the US unless it fully respects EU fundamental rights. The resolution also calls for the “immediate suspension” of the Safe Harbour privacy principles (voluntary data protection standards for non-EU companies transferring EU citizens’ personal data to the US) because they “do not provide adequate protection for EU citizens.” The resolution also asserts that the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) deal should be suspended until allegations that US authorities have access to EU citizens’ bank data outside the agreement are clarified.

The resolution also called for a European whistleblower protection program and asked member countries to consider granting whistleblowers international protection from prosecution. It further insists that Europe should develop its own clouds and IT solutions, including cybersecurity and encryption technologies, to ensure a high level of data protection.

The resolution further says that the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Poland should clarify the allegations of mass surveillance against them and their compatibility with EU laws. It also urges other EU countries, particularly those participating in the “9-eyes” (UK, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands) and “14-eyes” arrangements (Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden in addition to the former 9) to review their national laws to ensure that their intelligence services are subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight and comply with fundamental rights obligations.
The resolution passed 544 to 78. 60 MEPs abstained.

Let's break that down.

ALDE/ADLE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats): 69 FOR, 2 AGAINST, 7 ABSTAIN

ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists): 1 FOR, 47 AGAINST, 2 ABSTAIN

EFD (Europe of Freedom and Democracy): 3 FOR, 19 AGAINST, 4 ABSTAIN

EPP (European People’s Party): 196 FOR, 5 AGAINST, 34 ABSTAIN

Greens/EFA (Greens-European Free Alliance): 55 FOR, 0 AGAINST, 0 ABSTAIN

GUE-NGL (European United Left-Nordic Green Left): 27 FOR, 0 AGAINST, 6 ABSTAIN

NI (Independent): 19 FOR, 5 AGAINST, 7 ABSTAIN
(Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats): 174 FOR, 0 AGAINST, 0 ABSTAIN

47 (or 60%) of the 78 no votes came from the ECR, the anti-EU conservatives and the EP home of the UK Tories. The Tories made up 25 of that 47, or a third of the total opposition in the EP.

The UK was the only country in which the majority of MEPs voted against the resolution: 32 FOR, 36 AGAINST, 1 ABSTAIN. 

The strongest opposition outside of the UK came from Poland (28 FOR, 12 AGAINST, 2 ABSTAIN) and the Czech Republic (10 FOR, 8 AGAINST, 0 ABSTAIN).

The following countries' delegations (so far as they were there) voted for the resolution: Austria, Estonia, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, and Slovenia.

19 of the 34 abstentions from the EPP came from Spain.


The European Parliament also voted to tighten data protection policies. This bill requires Internet companies such as search engines, social networks, and cloud storage service providers to obtain the freely given, well-informed, and explicit consent of consumers before collecting or processing any of their data. Third country requests for an EU citizen’s personal data will require the prior authorization of  an EU data protection authority as well as notification to the  person(s) whose data is concerned. The bill also establishes minimum penalties of €100 million ($137 million) for privacy rights violations.

This passed 621 to 10, with 22 abstentions. 

8 of the 10 NO votes came from members of the UK Independence Party (parliamentary group EFD). The other two NO votes were an Austrian conservative eurosceptic and a Greek communist.

The following countries' delegations voted for it in full (so far as they were there), without abstentions: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

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