Let me preface all of this by presenting the main actors of this drama. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in the leading role with the PRISM programme. Costar is the British Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) with their programme TEMPORA. Under these two programs, they have been collecting data from over 200 fibre- optic cables that connected USA with the other side of the Atlantic (which means us, the European Union).
The full information that was intercepted was kept for a period of 3 days, while the metadata (information like the sender of an email, the recipient, date of sending, or concerning phone calls, the duration and the exact geographical position of the involved members) were on hold for 30 days.
In any case, it was always made clear to us that these programmes are here to ensure national security and combat terrorism. Under this point of view, the data that were collected but were not relevant to such matters were repudiated without being processed. However this is not such a big remedy; because we, as European citizens, have left with not much to do. We don’t even get a chance of hearing in the American courts and fight for our rights on a legal way.
This is the reason why, as Ms Reding stated, we need European and non-European companies to play by our rules and act under our laws, we need a more concrete and broader definition of the term “personal data” and, additionally, international data transactions should no longer be tampered with.
Connecting all the before mentioned with Greece, I can’t help but wonder where we stand. We are behind almost all European countries in internet economy (just Turkey and Slovakia are found behind us in the classification). Only 1,2 % of Greek GDP comes from activities run through Internet according to 2010 report. We clearly realize though, how important the internet is. This fierce escalation of feelings concerning data protection and the usage of them from huge internet companies (like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc) should teach us something. It should show us that we need to progress on that field. We need to weather this economic crisis by investing in research and not just cut our pensions and limit our salaries to minimum. We should invest on internet economy, bridging the university and its students closer to the economic market. We have the potential for it, we have the proper education. All we need is to dare that next step towards our future. An investment for the current generations carrying on to the generations to come.
Ioanna Fotopoulou is a political activist and interned in the office of a Greek MEP