Germany calls for new global online privacy charter

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Germany calls for new global online privacy charter

Warwick Ashford

German government officials are calling for a new global charter to safeguard privacy online in the wake of revelations about the US Prism online surveillance programme.

The move comes amid growing concern in Germany that the US National Security Agency (NSA) collected personal information on millions of web users.

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Earlier this month, German chancellor Angela Merkel said she wants internet firms to be more transparent about how they are using personal data.

European Union and French officials have also called for clarification from the US in light of the concerns raised by the latest revelations about US surveillance.

Merkel said there is a need for unified European rules that apply equally across the region to internet companies operating in the region, irrespective of where those companies are registered.

Germany's foreign and justice ministers have now sent a letter to their European Union counterparts that proposes expanding a 1966 UN human rights treaty to cover modern forms of communication.

The letter suggests convening a meeting of all 167 parties to the international covenant on civil and political rights, which the US ratified only in 1992, according to the Guardian.

The US maintains Prism is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, but Germany's privacy watchdogs have ruled that it breaches the 2000 safe harbour agreement aimed at ensuring cross-border data protection.

The agreement requires US companies to grant European customers the same level of data protection they could expect in Europe, even if their data is processed or stored elsewhere.

But according to whistleblower Edward Snowden, Prism gives the NSA access to customer data from companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Documents leaked by Snowden appear to indicate that the US bugged key EU offices and intercepted phone calls and emails from top officials.

German data protection authorities said the Prism programme made the interception of personal data routine and they have urged European officials to consider suspending the agreement.


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