Paul Nemitz, a director at the justice department of the European Commission, claims U.S. laws make it difficult for European-based online services to attract American consumers since those digital transactions are open to surveillance.
Nemitz, who is in charge of revising the EU’s data protection statutes, made his remarks at a Parisian conference discussing data protection.
The measure “which empowers the NSA to basically grab everything which comes from outside the United States is a real trade barrier to a European digital company to provide services to Americans inside America,” Nemitz told the audience.
The law in the U.S. allows security agencies broad and unwarranted access to emails that are to, from or about noncitizens.
Many Americans are already nervous about unapproved NSA snooping on email and other communications carried through domestic services. Nemitz contends that because international digital transactions are not as legally protected from unwanted surveillance, European services have a harder time coaxing Americans to join.
Nemitz’s commission is requesting that the U.S. government access foreign emails only when it is strictly necessary for reasons of national security – the same restrictions placed on the NSA when accessing U.S. citizens’ data –officially, at least.
Last summer’s leaks about NSA practices by whistle-blower Edward Snowden that scandalized Americans and Europeans have led to little action.
A survey of more than 23,000 people in 24 countries released last month by Canadian research group Centre for International Governance Innovation found that while 62 percent of Americans were more concerned about online privacy than they were a year ago, only about a third have done anything to better protect their data.
Half of the Europeans surveyed were concerned about their data online, and 29 percent have taken any steps to improve their online security.