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On the back of PRISM and the US surveillance scandal, the Germans are  pushing hard  to get the toughest possible outcome in the new EU data privacy rules that are currently making their way through the European Parliament. But that positioning puts them directly in conflict with the Brits, who  take a more pro-industry stance  and really don’t want the new law at all – at least, not in its current format.

 In Germany, a country that has always been concious of data protection issues, the matter of the new European data privacy rules has become entangled in election politics.  Germans will vote in a federal election on 22 September. The PRISM scandal has taken on a local flavour as the Germans discovered that their own data was being transferred to the NSA,and the possibility that the British were listening in too. So much so that is a dominant election campaigning issue.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has come in for criticism over the PRISM affair, that she has not been tough enough with the Americans.

Opposition Socialist  parties in Germany are demanding that  sanctions are available to punish  telecoms firms who give data to foreign powers.  They also want Chancellor Angela Merkel to  gets written guarantees that German laws will be adhered to by US organisations, and that German interests will be protected. By this, they mean that there should be no commercial espionage. It has even been suggested that  foreign firms who fail to comply with EU law could be banned from operating in Germany.

  German companies are reportedly becoming anxious about the security of their data in the PRISM context.

  The German opposition parties  want the European Union to set the ground rules for the online surveillance activities of  foreign intelligence services.

They are calling for the new EU Data Protection Regulation to take on board some  tough measures  that would deal with both corporate use of private data, and the spying actitivities of the United States.

 And that is where the Germans and Brits divide. Britain is generally perceived to be more industry-friendly and in some European eyes, has the weakest protection for personal data. As reported previously in Iptegrity, Britain does not like the use of the Regulation as the legal instrument.  (See EU data privacy reform “in the mire” says UK Minister ). 

 At the moment, the Germans may just have the upper hand. They have the rapporteur in the European Parliament  - although he is a Green,  hence from a smaller party group. They have the backing of the Commission. They are attempting to garner the majority in the Council of Ministers. There have even been attempts to dismiss the Brits from the argument, but it’s unlikely that Whitehall will  back off so easily.

 Until the Council votes – which means it will have to have come to some sort of Common Position – we can look forward to a pugnacious  political  tussle.

 This article was put together with the help of the following articles:

Der Spiegel

German Minister Floats US Company Ban

German Firms Scramble to Boost Data Protection

Die Zeit

 Opposition fordert "klare Kante" der Kanzlerin

 Abgehört und ausgetrickst


Die Glasfaser- Schnüffler


 This is an original article from and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2013,  Germany  v Britain tussle over new EU data privacy rules 6 August 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.





Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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