Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has called for a strict European agreement over data protection, which would ask all internet providers to reveal what personal details they have stored, and who they have made this information available to.
This measure would ensure that social networking sites and search engines such as Facebook and Google are subject to the same privacy rules applicable in all EU member states. Currently, these websites simply follow national legislation in the countries where they are registered.
As Facebook is registered in Ireland, it is only obliged to follow Irish data protection law. Ms Merkel is instead calling for a common European data protection standards. In a television interview with German broadcaster ARD on Sunday, Ms Merkel challenged other EU member states such as Britain to back tougher regulation on data protection.
She said: “Internet companies which are operating in Europe, such as Facebook and Google, must give [...] European countries the information about whom they have given data to.”
Ms Merkel’s calls for tougher rules arrive after she faced criticism for allegedly not protecting German internet users from surveillance carried out by US and British intelligence services.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged that America’s National Security Agency was “in bed with the Germans” in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel.
In response, Ms Merkel said: “I expect a clear promise from the American government, that in the future they will observe German law on German territory. We are friendly partners. We are in a defence alliance and we must be able to rely on each other.”
Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, met in Washington on Friday with Attorney General Eric Holder and Vice President Joe Biden. He declared himself satisfied with the meetings and stressed the need to prevent attacks, saying afterward that a US programme called PRISM searches in a “very targeted” way for terrorism-related information.
Ms Merkel added that the US administration had given Germany firm assurance that companies had not been targeted for snooping.
The Chancellor also suggested that a protocol on data protection could be added to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a UN accord that dates back to 1966. She didn't give details of what exactly that protocol might entail.
Ahead of September elections in which the conservative Merkel is seeking a third term, the centre-left opposition argue that her government isn't acting quickly enough to address worries felt by Germans over data and confront the US.
Additional reporting by agenciesReuse content