Data Privacy: A Right? Steve Wozniak Weighs In, Snowden Whereabouts Unknown

Fast computers, new software, and improved data mining analytic power. Data protection is an important issue as the NSA PRISM plot thickens. — As Nancy Pelosi gets booed at the Netroots conference for defending the NSA-FBI PRISM program — and as consultant Ed Snowden is gaining asylum in Ecuador from US charges — the issue of data privacy vs data surveillance gets more attention worldwide.

The personal drama of the fugitive and further revelations about global data collection have put US President Barack Obama and his administration on the defensive. Silicon Valley giants also joined the frey, demanding the right to be transparent.

The administration has lost the high moral ground internationally on this issue. If USA wants to be seen as the shining light of human rights,it must consider Data Protection a human right. The latest is the Steve Wozniak is coming out against the Patriot Act:

Asked about US surveillance programmes in an earlier interview with a Spanish technology news site, FayerWayer, Wozniak said: “All these things about the constitution, that made us so good as people – they are kind of nothing.

“They are all dissolved with the Patriot Act. There are all these laws that just say ‘we can secretly call anything terrorism and do anything we want, without the rights of courts to get in and say you are doing wrong things’. There’s not even a free open court any more. Read the constitution. I don’t know how this stuff happened. It’s so clear what the constitution says.”

He said he had been brought up to believe that “communist Russia was so bad because they followed their people, they snooped on them, they arrested them, they put them in secret prisons, they disappeared them – these kinds of things were part of Russia. We are getting more and more like that.”

As President Obama landed in Berlin this week, the Prime Minister, a graduate of Germany’s Stasi state, had some questions about the National Security Agency. The Germans and many other Europeans believe that data protection is a human right. Google had to justify some of its streetview practices to European Union officials. If streetview was an issue, you can imagine what PRISM global outreach means.

President appeared on PBS recently concerning this issue. Find interview coverage here.

“You do not have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that data collected for counter terrorism is being used in completely different areas,” said Dr. Alexander Dix, a data protection advocate, at a meeting about privacy and security in Berlin.

“Terrorism has become a killer overwhelming argument.” Obama has defended his practice of data collection to ensure national security. But his arguments, and his recent appearance on PBS, is merely a safe political hedge and is not very convincing.

“Privacy is a human right according to the European idea,” Dix added.

Yet Europe as a whole needs to be more aggressive about this civil rights issue to underscore Dix’s statement. Currently, for example, no European agency protects air passenger data when it is transferred to the United States. The planned Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. was an opportunity to make data protection a part of the dialogue. Instead, the issue was never even mentioned. “Privacy must  not be a bargaining chip,” Dix said. “It is politically unwise here, to play with hidden cards.”

British spies will also have tapped data

Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, it was revealed that British spies picked up a massive amount of privileged data on a delegation at the G20 summit in London in 2009. Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (the Federal Intelligence Service, also known as the BND) plans to expand its surveillance efforts. In fact, there is a plan in place designed by the Interior Ministry, but it lacks the legal basis to be enacted into law, stressed Dix. For now, the BND is obliged to inform each and every German citizen when he or she has been monitored.

In the U.S. however, such a courtesy isn’t required. China, North Korea, and the United States all agree: The government controls the network, and the government has the autonomy to do as it wishes. The events of 9/11 have created a huge sea of change in how information is tracked and disseminated. And citizen’s privacy rights have been compromised.

Recently, The Atlantic published an article titled “PRISM is Bad for American Soft Power.” It is a must-read for anyone who wants to go in-depth about U.S. soft power and PRISM.

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at