European privacy concerns regarding U.S. policies

There are a lot of people in Europe who feel that governments and companies should not be able to collect information of individuals so they can use it in ways that violate the privacy of individuals.

The issue weighs heavy on many a European’s mind. Maybe it’s because of the abuse of such knowledge that has occurred in the last century (Nazi regime in Germany, Eastern Germany government using information collected by the Stasi to keep citizens in line), or maybe it’s because there have been highly publicized cases of the government’s and its institutions’ mismanagement of the information (the case when the UK’s National Health Service mixed-up medical records and proceeded to harvest organs from dead people who didn’t sign the permission comes to mind).

In any case, Europeans are not only worried about their own governments, but about other as well. U.S. policies are seen as particularly grating – especially those related to traveling.

The New York Times writes about Sophie In “t Veld, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament who, irritated by constantly being subjected to extra security screening and questioning when flying to the U.S., petitioned the U.S. authorities to be allowed to look into her passenger name records. When those records proved to be full of codes and explained nothing, she asked the U.S. DHS, the FBI and other federal agencies to show her any records they might have on her.

Her petition ignored, she then proceeded to sue them in U.S. District Court. Unfortunately for her, the court ruled in favor of the government. But, in the end, this decision cost the U.S. more than they expected. Earlier this year, the European Parliament rejected an agreement that would have permitted the U.S. authorities to continue to use European banking data as means of aiding investigations. The action against the agreement was – among others – led by Ms. In “t Veld.

“Europeans regard these tools as disproportionate to what is required to fight terrorism,” says Valsamis Mitsilegas, a professor of European criminal law at the University of London.

Europeans are skeptical about the efficacy of these measures, and are clamoring for changes to be made in the agreement that concerns passenger information. They want to be able to see their records and verify that the information in them is accurate and true. And there are some Americans that think that Europe can teach the U.S. a thing or two about privacy.

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