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Germany Demands Sanctions for US Firms Over Privacy

Aug. 5, 2013
'High German data protection standards should be the rule. U.S. companies that do not uphold these standards should be banned from the European market,' said Germany's justice minister.

BERLIN -- Germany's justice minister called for data protection laws across the European Union using Berlin's stringent standards, with sanctions for U.S. firms that violate them, in an interview published Monday.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the daily Die Welt that Germany's strong privacy rules should become the standard for the 28-member EU, in response to revelations of sweeping U.S. surveillance practices.

"We need a package of measures at the EU level against mass spying by foreign secret services," she said.

"High German data protection standards should be the rule. U.S. companies that do not uphold these standards should be banned from the European market."

She said a single EU policy on the issue would have to entail stronger parliamentary oversight for intelligence services and "regular, intensive exchanges of information between the supervisory committees."

"The standard for privacy protection in the digital age should not be set by the global intelligence services but be based on the basic rights of citizens," she said.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has been among the most vocal critics of snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency in a country where bitter memories of state surveillance under the Nazis and the East German communists are still very much alive.

The issue has emerged as a dominant theme in the campaign for a September 22 general election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a third term.

Merkel has stressed that Germany "is not a surveillance state" and that "German law applies on German soil" but also conceded that the policy has its limits in the age of global telecommunication systems.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said last month she is determined to deliver new European data protection laws in the wake of news about the NSA programs to capture and store personal information gleaned from emails, phone calls and web searches.

Tech giants such as Google, Skype or Facebook have been implicated as working hand-in-hand with the U.S. authorities.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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