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© Alberto Favaro

EC Representation in Malta

Data protection rights of EU citizens are non-negotiable
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20/06/2013 12:44:35

Addressing a press conference in Dublin following EU-US talks on data privacy, Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice emphasised that EU citizens’ rights are non-negotiable in terms of data protection.

    She said “I sent a series of very detailed questions to [US] Attorney General Holder about the media reports on the collection of data from Verizon and about the PRISM programme. How do these affect EU citizens’ right? Are they aimed at EU citizens? What is the volume of the data collected? Do the programmes involve bulk collection of data or is the collection targeted? Do the programmes operate under proper oversight of the judiciary? Is the collection of EU citizens' data authorised by a court? And how are European citizens protected, as compared to American citizens?

    “These questions matter very much for the EU and for our citizens.

    “The concept of national security does not mean that “anything goes”: States do not enjoy an unlimited right of secret surveillance. In Europe, also in cases involving national security, every individual – irrespective of their nationality – can go to a Court, national or European, if they believe that their right to data protection has been infringed. Effective judicial redress is available for Europeans and non-Europeans alike. This is a basic principle of European law.

    “I have been asking since a long time already and I continue to ask for full equal treatment of EU and U.S. citizens: Not more not less.

    “For us Europeans, it is very essential that even if it is a national security issue it cannot be at the expense of EU citizens.

    “I welcome Attorney General Holder's proposal to convene, in the short-term, a meeting of experts from the U.S. and from the EU in order to clarify together the remaining matters – and I think there are remaining matters.

    “There are still questions to be answered, but this was a good first step – to speak eye to eye on questions which concern many European citizens.

    “We need to conclude these negotiations soon, to give citizens' confidence – confidence that their rights are protected.

    “This will contribute to restoring trust. It is the basis of both our cooperation in the field of law enforcement and essential to the stability and growth of the digital economy.

    “And it will also be essential when we negotiate on a trade agreement, that we have trust at the basis of our discussions.”

    The companies mentioned in the alleged surveillance in the PRISM initiative include Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Apple. These are very popular with the Maltese with more than half of the Maltese using Facebook (according to Facebook and Google are the first and third most popular websites accessed by the Maltese (according to, while Yahoo is the 9th most popular.

    Last update: 20/06/2013  |Top