[JURIST] European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx [official website] expressed concern in letters [PDF text; press release, PDF] sent Monday to the Portuguese ministers for justice and the interior that privacy and data protection are increasingly being sacrificed in the name of security and national defense. The letter was sent just weeks before Portugal takes over the European Union [official website] presidency from incumbent Germany [German presidency website]. Hustinx, who advises EU governing bodies on privacy rights, challenged the view that people must be willing to give up fundamental freedoms for security:
This position could be potentially dangerous and may produce more problems than it seeks to solve. Not only does it reveal a lack of understanding of the current framework of human rights in general, and data protection legislation in particular, which both enable proportionate measures that are necessary for public security or defence, it also ignores the lessons learned about the abuse of fundamental rights from dealing with terrorism within Europe's borders over the last 50 years.Hustinx believes that effective anti-terror measures can be developed which maintain privacy rights and protection of data, and asked the Portuguese delegation to work with him to ensure that "data protection is regarded as a condition for the legitimacy of any new initiative in this field."
Hustinx has been critical of data protection compromises in the past. He is particularly concerned with the potential of data being passed to bodies not involved with law enforcement, which has been a sticking point in the negotiations between the US and the EU regarding the sharing of airline passenger data [JURIST news archive] for flights inbound to the US. The EU generally has stronger privacy laws than the US, which on Tuesday led to Google changing its data retention policies after the EU expressed concern [JURIST reports]. OUT-LAW has more.