EU leaders on Friday said that the fight against terrorism could be hindered by distrust of the US after new leaks [Guardian report] revealed that Washington has regularly monitored phone traffic throughout Europe, including 35 world leaders. The EU summit in Brussels was set to focus on Europe's growing refugee crisis, but proceedings veered off topic to discuss the US spying. A statement supported by leaders from all 28 member states provided that a "lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering." According to British newspaper The Guardian, a confidential memo suggested that the US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] encouraged Washington officials to share their contacts so that the agency could add the contact information of foreign leaders to its surveillance systems.
Earlier this week an EU Parliament Committee approved [JURIST report] broad legislation aimed at providing greater data protection for Internet users in the wake of the revelation of the US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] PRISM [JURIST backgrounder] program. Since Edward Snowden leaked confidential documents [JURIST report] to The Guardian in June, people have been asking questions relating to the US government's surveillance of a wide swath of the population. PRISM, authorized by the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, is a program which allegedly taps into cell phone records, online activity, and other information to create a database of foreign and domestic persons and their activities. Data protection, especially in the wake of the PRISM scandal, has become an important issue, especially in the EU. In June an advocate general for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) released an advisory opinion [JURIST report] finding that EU data protection law does not require Google and other Internet search companies to withdraw sensitive data from search indices even when found to be harmful. Also in June French and Spanish data protection groups released statements [JURIST report] threatening Google with fines if the company does not change its privacy policies on collecting user data.