Data flow: The Parliament of the European Union has called for a non-espionage pact with Great Britain

On Friday, the European Parliament called on the European Union Commission, in a resolution passed by a slim majority, to review its plan, according to which companies and authorities are initially allowed to transfer personal data from the European Union to the United Kingdom for a period of four years. The UK’s practices in mass surveillance and data sharing based on international agreements must be clarified before a possible release.

For the decision 344 deputies voted. 311 opposed, and 28 abstained. The representatives of the people openly go to the path of confrontation before the committee. They stress that national data protection authorities in member states should, if necessary, suspend the transfer of personal data to the UK if arbitrary access to information about EU citizens is possible there.

MEPs also point out that the “non-espionage agreements” between the European Union countries and the United Kingdom can help solve the problems. These are agreements to prohibit data spying on citizens and companies affiliated with the parties concerned.

In this country, CDU politicians in particular presented a non-espionage pact with the United States as tangible before the 2013 federal election at the height of the NSA scandal after Snowden’s discovery. However, it quickly became apparent that the US government did not want to oblige its security authorities to comply with domestic law with relatively stringent data protection regulations.

The European Parliament now states that the basic UK data protection framework is similar to the European Union framework. However, it considers the implementation of the requirements to be insufficient. In particular, the UK rules included exceptions in the areas of national security and immigration, which now also apply to EU citizens living or planning to settle on the island.

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Current UK legislation also allows for access to and retention of large amounts of data, including that of the innocent. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has repeatedly stated that such arbitrary measures are inconsistent with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

MEPs also assert that the UK metadata provisions do not reflect the sensitive nature of such information and are therefore misleading. But they also acknowledge that UK lawmakers have now offered citizens better remedies against surveillance and improved control of data interception on national security grounds through reporting requirements. The civil rights organization Privacy International has managed to investigate a longstanding legal action that the secret GCHQ device is no longer permitted to penetrate smartphones, computers and entire networks abroad on the basis of General Court orders to use government Trojans.

According to the decision, an agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America guarantees the possibility of finally passing on information about citizens of the European Union to the authorities on the other side of the Atlantic. This conflicts with European Court of Justice rulings against the Privacy Shield and previous Safe Harbor Agreement, under which US laws allow for mass surveillance by security agencies such as the National Security Agency or the FBI. Hence, the data protection standard there does not comply with the European Union standards.

The MPs are therefore urging the Committee and the UK authorities to consider all these issues. They insist that the “convenience decision” of the European Union’s executive branch should not be taken until then. The objections of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) should be taken into account.

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And Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders had confirmed before the vote that the current legal situation in Great Britain is very similar to the situation in the European Union. However, future deviations are possible, which is why the fitness decision should initially be limited to four years. The final decision is expected to be issued by the governmental institution in Brussels in the coming months.


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