Society

Privacy: The dubious blessings of the EU Commission

20 April 2011
Der Standard Vienna

Yesterday the energy saving lamp, today data retention. Tomorrow: recording your frequent flyer points and what hotel you stay in. Its highly questionable and intrusive meddling is costing the EU the trust of the public.

The EU is not faring too well. The Euro relief funds have been misunderstood, European disunity over the bailouts and over what to do about Libya is fraying the nerves of the public, and on and on it goes.

Against this sorry backdrop the EU Commission is working even harder, it seems, to outrage even the staunchest proponents of the European Union.

The EU (Commission) is eroding trust in the EU by pushing through highly questionable legislation decided on in backroom deals that adversely impact every single citizen. Energy-saving lamps are the right way to go. The EU Commission, however, shifted the transition to a new system of home lighting to a few big corporations. The results are expensive things that give off an awful light, take a minute to warm up to speed – and also contain mercury. Just sweep it up when they shatter?

And now, to make it worse, we have studies concluding that the “compact fluorescent lamps” give off a “cocktail of toxic fumes,” – and, what’s more, carcinogens. That’s the opinion at least of the German experts commissioned by the consumer magazine Markt. The manufacturers say that the “threshold limits” were not exceeded. There was zero discussion on the introduction of the bulbs.

Quite similar to this implementation on the sly is a “guideline” of the Commission on so-called data retention, which the Austrian parliament will vote on in late April. What’s at stake are all communications via telephone and mobile phone, e-mail and the Internet. The data will be stored for six months, and the police and judiciary will have access to them. Abuse is in the air.

Working towards the downfall of the European Union

The abuse will be justified by quoting the struggle against terrorism. The EU has even drawn up an “evaluation report”, which essentially claims that the few states that have already introduced the measure have enjoyed wonderful successes. It’s called a “confidence trick”.

The German Federal Constitutional Court declared “the groundless retention of telecommunications traffic data” unconstitutional in 2010. Nothing fazed, Germany’s CDU/CSU-FDP government is arguing over how to implement the guideline anyway. Sweden, which is refusing to go ahead with its implementation, is being threatened with fines by the Commission. And Austria, before voting on this Untertanengesetz, a law that encroaches on its own national autonomy, would like to attach a few cosmetic amendments.

Next up is collection of airline flight data. The draft from the EU Commission wants to oblige airlines to forward to the competent security authorities data on passengers who cross the EU’s external borders. This data is to be stored for five years, and it will include not just the name and address of the passenger but the credit card number as well, along with the names of spouses and children, frequent flyer points, e-mail addresses, service requirements such as kosher or vegetarian food, and car rental or hotel bookings.

The Commission (and the Member States), with their policy of secrecy, are working towards the downfall of the European Union.

Translated from the German by Anton Baer