The strengthening of data protection laws in Europe has been a pet cause for German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for some time now. In July 2013, Merkel was strongly backed by the European commission in her call for tougher data protection laws, particularly in the ICT sector. The proposed legislation would require internet companies, including Facebook and Google, to reveal details about who exactly receives personal information on data subjects from them.
Earlier this month, Merkel addressed the cause with renewed vigour, calling for the institution of a Europe-wide Communications Network. As things stand, companies such as Facebook and Google, being based in the US, are subject to more lenient US data protection legislation, despite the fact that they collect and process information relating to European citizens. The setting up of a European Communications Network is intended to ensure that data relating to European citizens passes through Europe, and becomes subject to European data protection legislation, rather than passing automatically through the US.
This heightened interest in data protection in Europe follows recent revelations of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), and disclosures by US whistleblower Edward Snowden implying that even the mobile phones of US allies, including Mrs Merkel herself, have been monitored by US spies.
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