The European Parliament held a three hour debate today on mass surveillance conducted by the NSA and other spying agencies elsewhere in preparation for a vote tomorrow by its 766 members representing 28 countries.
Where the rubber meets the road in connection with this issue is still a mystery to most Americans. However, the puzzle pieces may soon fall into place for them. A piece published by The Hill on March 9 warned of the impact of Europe’s actions on the US economy ahead.
|The tech industry is bracing for a vote next week at the European Union that could put its business on the continent at risk.|
A Q&A on the Parliament’s action is posted at the EuroParl website.
The Parliament will be voting Wednesday on a gargantuan package of directives that restrict law enforcement, the judicial system, and commercial business enterprises in the handling of electronic data to protect the fundamental rights of citizens. Enforcement with heavy penalties for violations is included. Europe’s trans-Atlantic relationship with the US will be transformed.
|The numerous details of the data privacy package include Amendment 1, introduced by Jan Albrecht, (Greens - Germany) which calls for European national governments to provide protection to Edward Snowden as a whistle blower. Snowden’s written testimony was added to the record of documents last week and it’s worth a read.|
How did so many Americans lose their way and disregard the inherent risk related to mass surveillance and the violation of privacy rights? How did they lose sight of fundamental civil liberties without the slightest hint that it even matters to them?
There’s no single answer. After watching the 3 hour long European Parliament debate today, my conclusion is that the interests of those who profit must have something to do with the absence of a similar debate in the US.
There’s more to the present situation than politics, national security, counter terrorism, and new technology.
Americans were informed years ago that data about their online habits was being collected for businesses that wanted to market products to potential customers. They weren't informed that their data was also being collected for the NSA. There’s no outrage from the public because profitizing the collection of personal data that flows to the NSA makes it acceptable, even desirable.
This isn't the first time that business profits depended on keeping customers in the dark.
The tobacco industry once resisted telling its customers about the hazards of using its products because it would have reduced the prevalence of smoking. Most smokers didn't perceive any immediate danger from using tobacco, either.
Big Oil doesn't want to advertise the hazards of piping Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Business and government work together today, too, to keep the public in the dark about the hazards of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific free-trade deals.
Collecting online data is another gravy train, and the less said about it, the better, for those who profit from it. Public debate would bring up questions about who owns the data, disclosures made to consumers, and the need for choice. It would raise issues about the rule of law, fundamental rights like privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, presumption of innocence and redress for people whose rights have been violated.
Sure enough those are the issues dragged out into the daylight in Europe. And sure enough the US tech companies that profited without regard for the human rights of their customers will get the only reality check that they understand.