[NYTimes] Protecting Europe’s Privacy

Here we go again: Another violation of the basic right to privacy. Another public outcry. Another blow to citizens’ trust in the security of their personal data. Yet more evidence that something fundamental has to change if we want to stop citizens from worrying about somebody watching every time they visit a Web site or write an e-mail.

The Prism scheme allows the national security agencies of the United States to access E.U. citizens’ personal data. While the scale of the program is not yet entirely clear, Europeans are being put at a severe disadvantage compared with U.S. citizens. Through Prism, American national security authorities are able to survey E.U. citizens in a way that would likely be unconstitutional if applied to U.S. nationals. What is more, E.U. citizens are not even given a chance to use American courts to attain any kind of remedy or recourse.

This is a wake-up call for all those who have been blocking the European Commission’s reform of Europe’s data protection rules — ignoring just how much consumers worry about attacks on their right to privacy. The vast majority of citizens have long suspected that their data held by companies could be used — or abused — without them knowing about it. […]