On December 5, the Article 29 Working Party published a Working Document on surveillance, electronic communications and national security. The Working Document is specifically intended to address data protection issues arising out of the Snowden revelations that began in 2013 and the bulk data collection activities of various intelligence and security agencies. The Working Document examines the boundaries between the concepts of privacy and national security, and emphasizes the importance of privacy as a fundamental right in the EU. The Working Document concludes that the activities of intelligence and security agencies should not always fall within the scope of the national security exemption under EU data protection law, and that where the meaning of the term “national security” is unclear, the exemption should be construed narrowly.
The National Law Review announced that on November 26, the Article 29 Working Party released a short joint statement containing a series of declarations on: (i) “European values”; (ii) “surveillance for security purposes”; and (iii) the “European influence”. The joint statement emphasizes the balance to be struck between protecting data protection rights and allowing national intelligence agencies to perform their duties, and the fundamental importance of European data protection rights more generally. These affirmations are particularly significant in the context of both the Snowden revelations and the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
Eu Observer reports that MEP German Cornelia Ernst along with Dutch liberal Sophie In't Veld voted to suspend the so-called in-camera session on Safe Harbour. In-camera sessions are not open to the public. It also means MEPs are under threat of sanctions should they discuss the issue outside the room.
Safe Harbour is enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission and is supposed to ensure US firms follow EU data protection laws when processing the personal data of EU citizens. Last November, the former EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding published 13 recommendations that the Americans needed to implement in order to keep the agreement viable. The commission official, invited to update the MEPs on the negotiations, revealed that Washington has an issue with three of the 13 recommendations.