‘My’ personal privacy, or ‘your’ national security?

Who cares about our individual right to privacy?

We all know that we now live in a world where we are spied upon by total strangers, and that we can’t, individually, do much about it. CCTV on street corners, GPS location mapping, computer cookies; we just live with them all.

My own computer logs my every move, even if I’m offline. And online? Whew! That’s why, for example, I refuse to join Facebook (my little protest); but why has Google recently been sending me unsolicited email messages, telling me I’m ranking among the top YouTube users? I look at YouTube, of course, but infrequently.

So, I found this article (below) very interesting. I apologise, right now, for an extensive Copy & Paste – something I try hard to avoid. The extract is, therefore, an exception, as I found I couldn’t phrase it any better than the original source.[1]

My questions are: do we, as individual citizens, have any privacy rights left, at all? And, conversely, what are national governments working for? To protect their citizens, most of whom are law-abiding and harmless, or to wage war against some stupid, abstract, paranoid ‘security threat’?

Spiegel extract

‘The Right to Be Forgotten’
US Lobbyists Face Off with EU on Data Privacy Proposal

“The US government, together with Google and Facebook, have launched a lobbying offensive against a proposed EU data privacy law that would strengthen users’ rights to have information deleted. The issue has divided Germany’s government, and privacy advocates think it still doesn’t go far enough.

“The US government delegation that paid a visit to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs last week didn’t waste much time on pleasantries. After briefly invoking common trans-Atlantic values and declaring it a great honor to be visiting Brussels, the American representatives switched directly into attack mode.

“The source of the representatives’ displeasure lies in an EU plan to establish more effective and standardized data privacy laws across Europe. The officials from Washington criticized the plans laid out by the European Commission, deeming them unacceptable. Bruce Swartz, from the US Department of Justice, claimed the Commission’s plan would make it more difficult to fight crime and pose a threat to security. Cameron Kerry, from the US Department of Commerce, warned that the regulations would hurt the economy and cost jobs.

“Criticism has been pouring in ever since January, when EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding presented her plans for new, EU-wide data privacy standards. Meanwhile, the US government has been unabashed in supporting the interests of American Internet giants, such as Facebook and Google.

“In the wake of recent data privacy scandals, Reding is looking to implement stricter laws and tough penalties for violations. The determined politician from Luxembourg promises, among other things, that EU citizens will have the “right to be forgotten” online. In the case of data they put online themselves, users would have the right to insist that the companies processing the data delete it. This proposal, sure to be popular among the general public, is just one among a long list of data privacy measures the EU wants to use to give Internet users more control over their own data.”[1]

Anti-democratic interference and paranoid interests

We may all lambast the EU for many reasons, but I for one can’t quibble with the final sentence above. Plus, I’m a European citizen, not an American. Why is the US muscling in (yet again) on European affairs? Why is their government supporting the likes of those repulsive data-trawlers Google and Facebook? “Jobs“, my arse! “Hurting the economy” – whose economy? “Control over my own data” – hah!

[1]: Spiegel Online International

Image: eHow

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