Big Brotherism at the EU summit this week

Thursday and Friday EU leaders will get together for yet another summit. There are burning issues such as Ukraine and Greece on the agenda — but also a couple of surveillance topics to watch closely.

One is EU PNR – a register on our intra-EU air travel. The idea is to collect various data about us and our travel habits, to be saved for five years.

The European Parliament has tried to block EU PNR, as it does not meet its standards when it comes to privacy and data protection. Just a few days ago the majority position was that you should not retain personal data about all air passengers in the EU — only when it comes to “a smaller target list of suspects”.

But in Strasbourg today, the Parliament adopted an notably vague resolution. From the press release

MEPs pledge to work “towards the finalisation of an EU PNR directive by the end of the year” and encourage member states to make progress on the Data Protection Package, so that negotiations on both proposals can take place in parallel. They aim to ensure that data collection and sharing is based on a coherent data protection framework offering legally-binding personal data protection standards across the EU.

This can — or should — be read as a signal to the summit to go ahead with EU PNR. The Parliaments has just indicated that it will co-operate. This is just the kind of resolution normally adopted when EU member states applies arm twisting to the peoples elected representatives. Now, the Parliament has committed to deliver this year.

Then we have the matter of encryption. Still there is nothing from the US administration — expected to put forward its new policy on encryption any day now. But in the UK we have demands from Prime Minister Cameron, that national security agencies must be able to access all of citizens telecommunications.

This surely must be on the EU summit agenda this week. The risk, however, is if topics like Ukraine and Greece drags out — EU leaders will just rubber stamp all other prepared dossiers, like this one.

If there will be a move to sidestep encryption (and everything points in that direction) next Thursdays Global Security Summit in the US will be the time and the place. But first, EU leaders ought to coordinate.

The third point on my watch list is the role of Internet service providers and social platforms. It has been very quiet since the informal meeting with EU justice and interior ministers in Riga a week and a half ago. There it was decided to deepen cooperation with the Internet industry “and to strengthen the commitment of social media platforms in order to reduce illegal content online”.

Will this be taken to the next level by EU leaders this week? Or is regulation already being prepared in the opaque European Commission administration?

Eyes and ears, please. The EU summit kicks off tomorrow.



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