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EU and US internet privacy talks continue in spite of PRISM spying scandal

15 Jul 2013
European Parliament

The European Union and the US have finished the first round of negotiations for a trade-enhancing agreement to cover online privacy and piracy, in spite of the recent PRISM allegations of US agents spying on EU meetings.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is designed to "liberalise" trade between the EU and the US, with a view to remove cross-border regulatory issues, which can bring about extra costs and stifle trade.

It has attracted much attention from privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and La Quadrature du Net, the latter of which has revealed leaked documents that detailed some of the topics under discussion in the private meetings. The topics under review include e-commerce, email and telephone marketing, copyright and censorship.

La Quadrature du Net claims that the partnership will put current laws regarding the liability of internet service providers - they are currently not obliged to censor networks at the request of police - in jeopardy, and likens the scheme to the failed ACTA agreement, which targeted online piracy. The organisation said in a statement: "Altering this regime is precisely what [the] entertainment industry wants and almost got through ACTA."

ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament for, among other things, being "too vague", but politicians admitted that a solution to the problem of piracy still needed to be found.

Elsewhere, La Quadrature du Net also points out that the EU and US are looking to co-operate on cyber security, in spite of the recent revelation that US agents were tapping the phones and emails of EU staff and monitoring secret meetings in EU buildings. The leaked EU document said of the partnership: "A uniform approach across the Atlantic would facilitate trade in products, services and applications while at the same time ensuring a high level of security."

There had been warnings of the TTIP negotiations being cancelled as a result of the spying allegations, but the discussions apparently went ahead unabated.

EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero said: "It's been a very productive week. We have been striving already for many months to prepare the ground for an ambitious trade and investment deal that will boost the transatlantic economy, delivering jobs and growth for both Europeans and Americans."

The talks will continue in Brussels during the week of 7 October.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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