GO
Loading...

Europe and Brazil taking spying claims to the UN

Friday, 8 Nov 2013 | 9:13 AM ET
Odd Andersen | AFP | Getty Images

Top politicians in Europe and Brazil are piling the pressure on the U.S. over its spying program by taking their grievances to the United Nations (UN).

Germany and Brazil have tabled a UN General Assembly resolution which seeks special monitoring for "ensuring transparency and accountability" of state surveillance.

While the document did not specifically mention the U.S., Germany's anger at the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance tactics were made clear.

"Reports about mass surveillance of private communication and the collection of personal data have alarmed people all over the world," Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig told a General Assembly rights committee.

"They ask a legitimate question: is their right to privacy still protected effectively in our digital world?"

(Read more: Germany summons US over Merkel phone-tapping claims)

The move comes after the NSA was accused of tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone and the communications of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The latest spying row was sparked by recent revelations by former security contractor Edward Snowden in the Guardian and elsewhere.

But the director of the NSA General Keith Alexander, told a congressional hearing last week that data from European phone calls were not collected by his agency.

Taking the issue to the UN is "symbolic" but shows commitment to tighter privacy rules, Wenzel Michalski, Germany director of Human Rights Watch, told CNBC.

"Germany is showing that it is more than just annoyed. They are committed to the right of privacy. Together with the Brazilians, who are this new and strong democracy, it is actually quite a powerful step."

The resolution is expected to be voted on this month and would be non-binding, but would urge countries to stop cyber snooping. It calls on UN human rights chief Navi Pillay to produce a report on data surveillance and for states to extend protections to communications surveillance under an international covenant.

(Read more: US spying a 'slap in the face': EU lawmaker)

Meanwhile in Brussels, members of European Parliament (MEPs) called for the suspension of EU-US data transfer deals and are pushing for the creation of a "European privacy cloud", which is describes as "a secure data storage location to protect internet users' privacy".

The EU push towards tighter data protection rules is an economic and political "revolution" looking to "rebalance" the power between Brussels and Washington, Paolo Balboni, scientific director at the European Privacy Association, told CNBC. The call for the creation of a European privacy cloud will be a way for European technology firms to gain an advantage over U.S. companies, he added.

"I think that the EU is leveraging this reform around privacy reform to make rules in Europe more stringent than in other continents, where the biggest IT companies have their establishments and in this way, to enable the European IT market to have a competitive advantage against outsiders."

MEPs are expected to hold three more hearings with a report being produced in the first week of December to put to a full parliamentary vote in February 2014.

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal

Featured

  • Pro-Russian activists seized the main administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

    Deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine have spiked fears of all-out war in the region. So who are the armed, flag-waving rebels who appear to be behind it all?

  • An employee wipes a TV screen in a shop in Moscow, on April 17, 2014, during the broadcast of President Vladimir Putin's televised question and answer session with the nation.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of possible disruption to Europe's gas supply on Thursday, as the U.S. confirmed it would send additional military support to Ukraine.

  • The recovery in the EU's car industry carried on through March, providing some much needed cheer for automakers.

  • Amazon is facing fresh strikes in Germany after pay negotiations with the country's second-largest union Ver.di broke down, the Financial Times reports.

Contact Europe News

  • CNBC NEWSLETTERS

    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    › Learn More

Europe Video

  • Jan Dunning, CEO of St Petersburg-headquartered hypermarket chain Lenta, says the situation in Ukraine has had no impact on the group, as consumer confidence remains unaffected in Russia.

  • Vincent Deluard, European strategist at Ned Davis Research Group, says the strong euro is a problem for the region's companies, especially for the large exporters.

  • European shares closed higher on Thursday as investors brushed aside concerns regarding Ukraine and focused instead on Wall Street earnings and the latest U.S. jobs data.