A number of European campaigners have lobbied Brussels against restricting online civil liberties in the name of investigating terrorist attacks.
The UK Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), a fierce opponent of the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and other groups have urged ministers not to increase interception of communication powers for police forces and intelligence services, or restrict the use of encryption.
The letter argues that surveillance powers failed to provide adequate intelligence last week and do not merit their intrusion on individual civil liberties.
In full, it states: "The terrorist attacks on the U.S. did not only target human lives and property but also the essential values of freedom in open societies.
"Political leaders in Europe will now wish to enhance the security of their countries and protect the public from further wrongdoing. We urge them to take this opportunity to defend the freedom and the rights of Europe's citizens.
"European privacy and civil liberties organisations urge Europe's leaders to refrain from new and extended communications interception and lawful access powers for police forces and intelligence services. We question the effectiveness and proportionality of such capabilities and warn against the grave loss of privacy that those measures would lead to.
"We support the recommendations of the European Parliament regarding Echelon. The existence of the Echelon system did not provide intelligence services with information about the attacks in the U.S., and as a result we are concerned that Echelon and similar systems threaten the rights of all European citizens without achieving their stated goals. It is not likely that more legal possibilities and funding for signals intelligence would change the current situation.
"We urge Europe's leaders to defend and promote the right of private and secure communications through the use of encryption. To restrict the use of cryptography will negatively affect the security of our communications infrastructure, further damage trust in our economy, and will restrict the rights of individuals, without affecting the capabilities of terrorists.
"We urge Europe's leaders to carefully take the recommendations of the European parliament regarding the Echelon report into account and stimulate the use of open-source encryption technology.
"Also we urge European leaders not to implement legislation that mandates internet and telecommunication service providers to retain traffic data for law enforcement purposes. Retention of traffic data will in effect transform our communications infrastructure into a surveillance system that records intimate details of the personal life of all citizens.
"We, the undersigned European NGOs concerned with privacy and civil liberties, look forward to working with Europe's leaders on these issues. As we all deliberate on how to proceed and the lessons we may have learned from the sad events in the U.S., we must resist the political temptation to act hastily."
Bits of Freedom
Chaos Computer Club
Foundation for Information Policy Research
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