A Google lawyer says Europeans spied on by the NSA should get the same rights as Americans – such as the right to sue the US government for privacy invasions.
David Drummond, chief legal officer for the information-harvesting monster (Google), published a blog post on Wednesday titled "It’s time to extend the US Privacy Act to EU citizens."
The European Commission has been calling for such a move ever since ex-NSA techie Edward Snowden blew the lid off Uncle Sam's global internet spying last year. New Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova is in Washington this week to try to negotiate such a deal.
According to Drummond, who was in Brussels last week as part of Google’s “right to be forgotten” roadshow, there is an “urgent need for surveillance reform” to repair severely damaged relations between the US and Europe.
“Google and many other technology companies have urged the US to take the lead and introduce reforms that ensure government surveillance activity is clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. Sadly, we’ve seen little serious reform to date,” wrote Drummond.
Under US law, Europeans cannot challenge the misuse of their data by the American government in US courts, although Americans can whether they're home or abroad. “Google supports legislation to extend the US Privacy Act to EU citizens, said the legal eagle.
US Attorney General Eric Holder is on the record as saying the Obama administration is broadly in favour of this idea, so Google is not exactly rocking the boat – but Jourova may be able to use the internet behemoth’s position to her advantage in negotiations with Uncle Sam.
After the NSA’s snooping activities hit the headlines, there's been mutterings about an “EU cloud” and using services that guarantee data does not pass over US soil.
It would be in Google's interests to head off a massive shift away from the US to EU-only services, but if such a migration of data affects the “do no evil” one, it would apply to many other US businesses. Granting EU citizens limited rights they they are unlikely to ever exercise would be a small price for the administration compared to keeping billion-dollar companies with US interests happy. ®