German Chancellor Angela Merkel has lent her support to the idea of building out new European data networks to help keep Europeans' email and other data out of the hands of US spies.
In the latest edition of her weekly podcast on Saturday, Merkel said she planned to raise the issue among other topics in a meeting with French President François Hollande this week.
"We'll talk, above all, about which European suppliers we have that provide security for the citizens," Merkel said, speaking in German, "that they need not cross the Atlantic with their emails and other things, but we can also build communications networks within Europe."
The extent to which European communications are monitored by the US has come under greater scrutiny, in light of documents exposed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Perhaps the most damning news for Germans was the revelation that Merkel's own BlackBerry had been tapped by US spies, an action the chancellor condemned as "completely unacceptable."
In January, the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee issued a report in which it questioned whether US surveillance activities were really about fighting terrorism, as US officials have claimed, suggesting instead that they were tools for "political and economic espionage."
The report recommended the construction of a European data storage network to help protect EU citizens' data, and it also called for greater scrutiny of the data privacy practices of American internet companies, such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
A group of EU agencies issued new guidance on data protection earlier this month, but its recommendations were non-binding.
During her Saturday podcast, Merkel said that work to develop binding EU privacy rules is ongoing, but that arriving at a single standard that would apply to every member nation was a challenge.
It's also not entirely clear that a new, EU-based data network would offer Europeans significantly more protection from spying than they have now. Although the Civil Liberties Committee's report mostly focused on US activities, it also noted that France, Germany, and Sweden had all been carrying out mass surveillance programs of their own.
Merkel is scheduled to meet Hollande in Paris on Wednesday. ®
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