MEPs called on US authorities to put an end to current discrimination whereby European citizens have lower levels of privacy rights than US citizens, including less privacy protection in US courts, and urged for the disclosure of more information on the proposed changes to the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance practices.

US President Barack Obama has announced potential reforms to the US legal framework, following the continuing disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In particular, the reforms foresee limiting the NSA programme that collects domestic phone records and halting eavesdropping on foreign leaders and governments that are friends or allies of the US. However, the European Parliament said more concrete actions are needed in order to restore the confidence of EU citizens.

Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), rapporteur for the European Parliament inquiry into the mass surveillance of EU citizens, said that Obama’s speech was ‘a substantial step forward in addressing the serious concerns from EU Member States in relation to NSA activities on mass surveillance and spying.’ However, he pointed out that there is a need for additional privacy protection and the US needs more effort to restore confidence.

And Moraes stated:”What we are seeking is firm, concrete assurance from the US that they will make the necessary reforms to guarantee European citizens an end to the blanket collection of personal data of innocent people. We are asking for a clear path to judicial redress rights for EU citizens and a firm commitment to finalising an EU-US umbrella agreement on data transfer for law enforcement purposes. We needed a clear message to reassure EU citizens, who have serious concerns relating to the use of metadata for potentially negative or illegal purposes, that they will have a right to judicial redress, which would deter such potential actions from the NSA”.

Finally, he concluded saying: “In order to rebuild trust, we need the US authorities to put an end to current discrimination whereby European citizens have lower levels of privacy rights than US citizens, including ensuring privacy protection in US courts. It would have been good to have a more reassuring message on these issues with more clarity on future reform”.