TTIP: Protect our privacy in EU-US trade deal or ELSE, snarl MEPs

Lawmakers rattle sabres, Commish doesn't blink, for now

MEPs have called on American and European negotiators to guarantee citizens’ right to privacy in an international trade deal.

Members of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee said last week that an “unambiguous, horizontal, self-standing provision” in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) must be created to safeguard Europe’s data protection laws.

Although the ongoing negotiations on TTIP do not specifically deal with data protection, MEPs say that they “touch upon international data flows, while excluding privacy and data protection entirely.”

Ignoring data privacy has raised the ire of many in the civil liberties committee and they warned EU Commission negotiators to “keep in mind that Parliament's consent to the final TTIP agreement could be endangered as long as the blanket mass surveillance activities are not completely abandoned and an adequate solution is found for the data privacy rights of EU citizens.”

In other words, the EU Parliament could hold the Commission to ransom.

The Commission is currently discussing a so-called data protection “umbrella agreement” with the US as well as mulling a new data retention law. If the Commish wants MEPs to approve its TTIP position it will likely have to give ground in these areas.

Under EU law, personal data can only be transferred outside the EU if the receiving nation offers protections equal to EU data protection laws. As this is currently not the case with the United States, agreements such as Safe Harbor and TTIP take on greater significance.

“The most important decision of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on TTIP is that the agreement needs to foresee a horizontal exception for EU data protection law,” said Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht. ®

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