Tech

U.S. Cyber Surveillance Even Has The Europeans Freaked Out

By Michael Mayday , May 18, 2013 06:35 AM EDT

The past two weeks has not been kind to the U.S. government. The IRS was found to be discriminating against anti-tax based political movements; new documents relevant to the Benghazi attack in Libya, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were revealed; and, to top it all off, the Department of Justice was caught secretly wiretapping Associated Press (AP) phone lines.

That last scandal has the European Parliament, the governing body of the European Union, particularly freaked out. So much so, that regulators are now working on two laws: one which would reform how private data is processed, and another which would address cross-border police investigations.

Those laws, writes Slate's Ryan Gallagher, are in response to aggressive U.S. snooping –– a result of a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The amendment in question granted the U.S. government the ability to monitor any foreign data stored on U.S.-based cloud services, like Microsoft and Google, if it tangentially involves U.S. interests. That means European journalists, politicians and activists could be monitored if they raise the suspicions of U.S. government agencies.

The European Parliament has already proposed amendments to address U.S. monitoring, but the recent AP phone scandal, where the U.S. government secretly monitored the phones of over 100 press members, has accelerated talks.

"We all know that our closest friend and ally across the Atlantic has a specific interest in collecting personal data mainly for all sorts of law enforcement and security purposes," Dutch member Sophia in 't Veld said, during a Wednesday seminar in Brussels, Belgium.

in 't Veld in particular is pushing for the European Union to be more aggressive against U.S. monitoring. Her proposed amendment would prohibit the transfer of personal data to any overseas country, like the U.S., without the expressed consent of a user. But hers is one of many. According to Slate there are over 4,000 amendments - some allegedly crafted by U.S. lobbyists - seeking to modify European data protection law.

Regulators are seeking to agree on the language of the law by the end of 2013.

It's no secret that European regulators are a privacy-centric bunch, regularly restricting how major software and Internet companies gather personal data. Now, in light of the AP scandal, that treatment may be given to the U.S government.

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