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EU warns citizens to flee Facebook to avoid spying by US government and corporations


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(NaturalNews) If you're a Facebook user, the European Commission is warning that you're being spied on.

Recently, a member of the EU warned European citizens that they ought to close their Facebook accounts if they have any intentions of keeping their personal information away from the prying eyes of U.S. intelligence agencies, adding that current Safe Harbor legislation does not protect their privacy or data.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reports that the warning came from EC member Bernhard Schima in reference to a case brought by privacy advocate Maximilian Schrems. The case in question examined whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if it is sent to the United States. Such concerns follow earlier revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency and other American spy operations absorbed metadata from virtually every online source.

"You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one," Schima told attorney general Yves Bot during a hearing of the case at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg recently.

Privacy is routinely compromised

When asked directly, the EC could not state with certainty in court that Safe Harbor rules gave EU citizens adequate online privacy protection as it currently stands.

Dubbed "the Facebook privacy case," the court has heard concerns about whether Safe Harbor currently covers the transmission of EU citizens' data across the Atlantic to the U.S. Without that framework, it is a violation of EU law to transmit private data outside of the union. The case involves complaints against Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Microsoft-owned Skype and Yahoo.

The Guardian reported:

Schrems maintains that companies operating inside the EU should not be allowed to transfer data to the US under Safe Harbour protections - which state that US data protection rules are adequate if information is passed by companies on a "self-certify" basis - because the US no longer qualifies for such a status.

Lawyers have argued that the U.S. government's PRISM data collection program, which was revealed by Snowden, captures EU citizens' data that is held by U.S. telecoms and transmits it to the U.S. intelligence community, violating EU law. They have argued that such capture and transmission is a violation of the "adequacy" standard set by the EU's Data Protection Directive, which means that the Safe Harbor framework is no longer applicable.

Poland, along with a few other member states and the advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland, joined Schrems in arguing that the Safe Harbor legislation does not adequately protect EU citizens' private data and is therefore in violation of the Data Protection Directive.

However, the EC argued that Safe Harbor is necessary politically and economically and that it remains a work in progress. The EC and the Ireland-based privacy and data protection watchdog argue that the commission ought to reform the Safe Harbor framework by adding a 13-point plan that would ensure citizens' privacy.

Changes to policy won't really matter much, given prior U.S.-UK spy arrangements

"There have been a spate of cases from the ECJ and other courts on data privacy and retention showing the judiciary as being more than willing to be a disrupting influence," Paula Barrett, a partner and data protection expert at law firm Eversheds, told The Guardian. "Bringing down the Safe Harbor mechanism might seem politically and economically ill-conceived, but as the decision of the ECJ in the so-called 'right to be forgotten' case seems to reinforce that isn't a fetter which the ECJ is restrained by."

Any so-called upgrading of privacy protections in the EU are not likely to matter much, given decades-old intelligence agreements between the U.S., the U.K. and three other allies - Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Known as "Five Eyes," it is an intelligence-gathering and sharing compact that focuses primarily on SIGINT, or signals intelligence, collection, under provisions of an arrangement known as the UKUSA Agreement.

Dating back to the end of World War II, the Five Eyes agreement flourished during the Cold War but now "constitutes an integrated global surveillance arrangement that now covers the majority of the world's communications," according to one description.

Meanwhile, there are better, more secure social media options than Facebook, and one if them is a site called Unseen.is, which specializes is keeping personal data private and secure.

The site features chat, email and other social interactive functions, all focused on keeping your information away from prying eyes.

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com

http://www.giswatch.org

https://www.unseen.is

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