European Parliament calls for action against surveillance

The European Parliament has called upon the Commission and public bodies across Europe to help citizens protect themselves from surveillance. Free Software (referred to here as “open source”) plays a key role in this effort:

The European Parliament:


29. Urges the Commission and Member States to devise appropriate measures to promote, develop and manufacture European encryption technology and software and above all to support projects aimed at developing user-friendly open-source encryption software;

30. Calls on the Commission and Member States to promote software projects whose source text is made public (open-source software), as this is the only way of guaranteeing that no backdoors are built into programmes;

31. Calls on the Commission to lay down a standard for the level of security of e-mail software packages, placing those packages whose source code has not been made public in the ‘least reliable’ category;

32. Calls on the European institutions and the public administrations of the Member States systematically to encrypt e-mails, so that ultimately encryption becomes the norm;

33. Calls on the Community institutions and the public administrations of the Member States to provide training for their staff and make their staff familiar with new encryption technologies and techniques by means of the necessary practical training and courses;

Good stuff. Too bad it’s twelve years old.

This was how the European Parliament reacted to the revelations that Europeans (and everyone else, for that matter) were being spied upon through the ECHELON system.

The measures which the Parliament proposes are still valid. Unfortunately, I don’t see much public support for user-friendly Free Software encryption systems, or Free Software projects in general. If the Commission has gotten round to laying down a standard for the level of security for e-mail software, I haven’t heard about it (that’s entirely possible). Systematic email encryption in the public sector isn’t happening on any significant scale, and I haven’t had many public servants tell me how they’ve been trained in the use of encryption technologies.

Still, if the EP decides to have a resolution on PRISM and its ilk, they could do worse than look at the Parliament’s own ECHELON text.