Google has witnessed the culmination of seven months of advisory council meetings convened regarding the famous “right to be forgotten” ruling against them. To their credit, they complied with both the letter and spirit of the decision. Now, in a recent post, it is on the offensive reiterating its call for surveillance reform and urging the U.S. government to expand the privacy rights of US citizens to European citizens, saying that such an extension is long overdue .The post penned by David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said,
“Last summer’s (sic, technically it was late spring) Snowden revelations not only highlighted the urgent need for surveillance reform but severely damaged relations between the US and Europe. Google and many other technology companies have urged the US to take the lead and introduce reforms that ensure government surveillance activity is clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. Sadly, we’ve seen little serious reform to date.”
Whether meaningful reform can occur during the lame-duck session of Congress is another question. Another is whether the new congress controlled by Republicans has the appetite to pass such legislation. Given President Obama’s woeful track record in this area and with transparency in general, a veto of any surveillance measures is more than likely. But an opportunity presents itself with the meeting of the European Commission this week.
“However, the US government can signal a new attitude when representatives of the EC visit Washington tomorrow. Right now European citizens do not have the right to challenge misuse of their data by the Us government in US courts, even though American citizens already enjoy this right in most European countries.
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. The emergence of ISIS and other threats have reminded us all of the dangers we face. But the balance in the US and many other countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual-rights that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The argument should resonate with the public in light of publicity surrounding further surveillance abuses by the Government. Just yesterday we wrote about the US Marshals Service using light commercial aircraft to scoop- up cell phone data from thousands of people surreptitiously and apparently without the express knowledge of judges. This comes on the heels of reports a few months ago of police using mobile cell phone apparatus, known as Stingrays, to likewise extract cell phone information from within a building.
Of course with matters such as immigration and the Keystone Pipeline on the agenda, this plea by Google may fall on deaf ears. One can only hope that the new congress to be sworn in this January is more receptive.