EU decision puts private lives in firing line

The European Union Foreign Ministers Council’s recent decision to record and store the phone calls, text messages and e-mails of European citizens from six months to a year is a threat to privacy and democracy, two data protection experts recently told Kathimerini. Law professor Spyros Simitis is the director of the Center for Research into the Protection of Personal Data at the University of Frankfurt. Walter Rudolf is state commissioner for data protection in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The two were recently in Athens to attend an event held by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) at the Goethe Institute. Simitis said competition between the European Council and the European Commission is leading to debate that risks individual liberty. He proposes setting out a clear framework to determine why this information is gathered, restricting it to only absolutely necessary situations, and controlling third-party access to data banks. Rudolf says the overlap of judicial decisions, amendments and laws emerged with the strict controls that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. Several «suspects» emerged after that, though later it was shown they had no connection to terrorism. He predicts a similar «information collection» to take place before next summer’s World Cup soccer matches in Germany.