September 20, 2006 7:51 AM PDT

EU data guru: Privacy advocates not a problem

The European Union's data protection head has refuted claims that privacy advocates are blocking governments' attempts to pass so-called antiterror legislation.

The European data protection supervisor (EDPS), Peter Hustinx, said effective legislation cannot exist without data protection controls. Including such measures in new laws can only improve them by introducing safeguards to make sure that only the right individuals can access sensitive details, he added.

Peter Hustinx Peter Hustinx

"It is a misconception that protection of privacy and personal data holds back the fight against terrorism and organized crime," Hustinx said in a statement.

According to the EDPS, data about European citizens will be used increasingly as governments seek to thwart terrorist activity. The EDPS has warned that institutions are not informing citizens about how and why their data is being processed and, as a result, they are unable to exercise their rights properly.

The EDPS also has regularly accused lawmakers of not taking data protection seriously enough.

"I believe that politicians, people--you, I, everyone else--have to be aware of the real threats," Hustinx said in a recent interview with "At the same time, that is not going to justify disproportionate solutions. It is going to hurt the texture of trust and confidence."

Hustinx has also voiced his doubts about the effectiveness of the European data retention directive, introduced in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. The directive mandates that communications providers must keep records relating to text messages, mobile and fixed-line calls, and online activity.

The data retention debate continues to spread. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this week stepped up efforts to lobby for a similar directive to be passed in the United States, saying: "This is a national problem that requires federal legislation."

Jo Best of reported from London.

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About time
Steps to safeguard citizens' information should have been taken a long time ago. Private businesses aren't the only ones leaking data - government organizations have had plenty of major offences themselves, from hacking to stolen laptops, especially in the U.S. (<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>).
Data protection controls should be implemented ASAP to prevent even more Europeans and Americans from being at risk for identity theft (<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>). If anything, leaked information is only helpful to terrorists, so by putting off implementing security measures, we're only making ourselves more susceptible to attacks.
Posted by ml_ess (71 comments )
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