Shutting Europe Down Is Not the Way To Defend Privacy

When I was at university, I remember a lecturer who used to say the first rule that any law degree student should follow was “to not panic.” That is a rule that we should all apply when reading the draft report of the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament on the NSA surveillance programme. The prospect of a closed-down Europe that is advocated by the report is certainly daunting. Shutting down pretty much all transatlantic data flows in order to prevent unreasonable access to data by the U.S. intelligence services would not only be disproportionate, but it would be hugely damaging to the information society we all rely on.

LIBE's draft report follows a very thorough inquiry and assessment carried out by LIBE during the second half of 2013 and contains specific recommendations for wide-ranging measures to be adopted by the European Parliament. The report is nothing short of ambitious as it targets not only EU member states and institutions, but the U.S. government and even the United Nations. However, its extremism is highlighted by statements like:

"The business model of most Internet companies is based on the processing of personal data of all kinds that puts at risk the integrity of the person"


“This alarming situation can only be remedied if Europeans are willing to dedicate sufficient resources, both human and financial, to preserving Europe’s independence and self-reliance."

The key practical focus of the report is “international data transfers” and how these have facilitated the large-scale mass surveillance of EU individuals. In response, the report calls for some drastic and immediate measures to prevent this, including:

  • The suspension of the European Commission's adequacy decision regarding Safe Harbor,
  • The suspension by EU data protection authorities of any data flows allowed under Safe Harbor,
  • The re-assessment of Canada and New Zealand as safe jurisdictions to receive European data,
  • The suspension by EU member states of any data flows authorised on the basis of contractual mechanisms or Binding Corporate Rules, where the law applicable to the recipient of the data invalidates privacy safeguards and
  • The suspension by the European Commission of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program Agreement with the U.S.

Needless to say, the impact of these measures would be catastrophic, so logic suggests that ultimately, this is a call for attention rather than a realistic proposal. Unfortunately, this still leaves us with the challenge identified on both sides of the Atlantic that democratic oversight must prevail over indiscriminate mass surveillance. Addressing this issue is a task that all of the public authorities identified in the LIBE report should prioritise, but this should be done in the same way that privacy professionals do their daily job: with pragmatism, conviction and vision. Certainly not by isolating Europe.

Written By

Eduardo Ustaran, CIPP/E


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Advertise in IAPP Publications

Find out how to get your message in front the people you want to reach. Download a media kit now.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Registration Open

New! Intensive two-day GDPR training led by the sharpest minds in the field. It's a can't-miss event.

The Congress Is Cancelled

The IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2015 is cancelled. Click through to learn more.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»