Today, the European Parliament passed a bold, landmark resolution, and we’d like to offer our congratulations on two fronts.
First, the one that will grab all of the headlines. By 285 votes to 281, MEPs decided to call on EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender”.
Now, the onus is on European governments to respect democratic process and do as Parliament says. As our founder Tim Berners-Lee said in 2014: “I think (Snowden) should be protected, and we should have ways of protecting people like him. Because we can try to design perfect systems of government, and they will never be perfect, and when they fail, then the whistleblower may be all that saves society.”
We call on national leaders to publicly commit to respecting the will of the European people and offering Snowden asylum.
Importantly, Parliament also highlighted that much more needs to be done – and fast – to protect Europeans’ fundamental rights in the face of mass electronic surveillance. Noting that “EU citizens’ fundamental rights remain in danger”, the Parliament also chided States such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, which are allowing security forces increasing scope to collect information on anyone, anywhere, anytime.
It’s time to stop vague or overly-intrusive surveillance powers that trample our privacy and destroy the Web as a space for debate, innovation and collaboration. Intelligence agencies need powers to keep people safe, but these powers must be subject to tough limits and oversight or they will erode the very fabric of democracy. Bulk data collection by default, with laws made and enforced in secret can never be acceptable.
Today marks a great step forward for Europe, but because the resolution is not legally binding, it’s up to all of us to put pressure on our leaders to make it a reality. Click here to send a tweet congratulating the Parliament, and click here to subscribe to the Web Foundation newsletter – we’ll send you occasional updates and ideas on how to drive progress in the time ahead.