Germany's backing of a strict set of Europewide laws and rules
revived a push by proponents of tighter regulation in Brussels on
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has thrown her influence
behind a European effort to protect the data of Internet users after
disclosures about digital surveillance by the United States put her
under intensifying political pressure heading into her re-election
Specifically citing Facebook and Google as examples of companies
that would be affected by the proposal, Ms. Merkel called for the
European Union to adopt legislation that would require Internet
companies to disclose what information about users they store and to
whom they provide it.
There is little likelihood of any concrete action by the European
Union before the German elections, and big Internet companies are
already mounting aggressive lobbying campaigns to stop or dilute any
tighter privacy rules. But Germany's support for a strict set of
Europewide laws and rules revived a push by proponents of tighter
regulation in Brussels on Monday.
Viviane Reding, the Union's justice commissioner, who originally
proposed new rules overhauling and updating the bloc's privacy
standards in early 2012, praised "this commitment of Chancellor
Merkel to strong and uniform E.U. data protection rules" in a
statement on Monday.
Ms. Merkel's statement, in a television interview on Sunday
night, was among the clearest expressions of anger in Germany and
throughout Europe over the disclosures about the National Security
Agency's activities disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former
N.S.A. contractor who leaked classified documents.
But it also highlighted the growing strain the episode has placed
on Ms. Merkel, who polls suggest remains in a strong position before
German elections in September but who has found herself under
increasing attack from opposition parties who see the matter as an
opportunity to undercut her popularity.
While the memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
define U.S. public concern for security, the history of government
surveillance first under the Nazis and later by the Communist
government of East Germany has translated into a heightened concern
among Germans for citizens' rights to privacy.
Opposition parties have accused Ms. Merkel's government of being
too deferential to the United States over the issue and of allowing
German intelligence agencies to be complicit in the American
Peer Steinbruck, the chancellor's main rival in the election,
said in an interview published on Sunday that Ms. Merkel had broken
her oath of office by failing in her duties to protect the German
"As chancellor, Ms. Merkel swore to prevent harm to the German
people," he told the Bild am Sonntag weekly, stressing that included
the right to protection of their personal data.
Until now Germany has been slow to back an aggressive Europewide
privacy initiative because its national laws are among the tightest
in the E.U. But Ms. Merkel said she now believes that only a broader
pact can be effective.
"That has to be part of such a data privacy agreement, because we
have great regulation for Germany, but if Facebook is registered in
Ireland, than it falls under Irish jurisdiction, consequently we
need a common European agreement," the chancellor said. …