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Research Paper

Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law

by Didier Bigo / Sergio Carrera / Nicholas Hernanz / Julien Jeandesboz / Joanna Parkin / Francesco Ragazzi / Amandine Scherrer
06 November 2013

Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law

Didier Bigo / Sergio Carrera / Nicholas Hernanz / Julien Jeandesboz / Joanna Parkin / Francesco Ragazzi / Amandine Scherrer

In the wake of the disclosures surrounding PRISM and other US surveillance programmes, this paper assesses the large-scale surveillance practices by a selection of EU member states: the UK, Sweden, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Given the large-scale nature of these practices, which represent a reconfiguration of traditional intelligence gathering, the paper contends that an analysis of European surveillance programmes cannot be reduced to a question of the balance between data protection versus national security, but has to be framed in terms of collective freedoms and democracy. It finds that four of the five EU member states selected for in-depth examination are engaging in some form of large-scale interception and surveillance of communication data, and identifies parallels and discrepancies between these programmes and the NSA-run operations. The paper argues that these programmes do not stand outside the realm of EU intervention but can be analysed from an EU law perspective via i) an understanding of national security in a democratic rule of law framework where fundamental human rights and judicial oversight constitute key norms; ii) the risks posed to the internal security of the Union as a whole as well as the privacy of EU citizens as data owners and iii) the potential spillover into the activities and responsibilities of EU agencies. The paper then presents a set of policy recommendations to the European Parliament.  

Didier Bigo is Director of the Centre d’Etudes sur les Conflits, Liberté et Sécurité (CCLS) and Professor at Sciences-Po Paris and King’s College London. Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs Section, Centre for European Policy Studies. Nicholas Hernanz is Research Assistant, Justice and Home Affairs Section, CEPS. Julien Jeandesboz is Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam and Associate Researcher at CCLS.  Joanna Parkin is a Researcher, Justice and Home Affairs Section, CEPS. Francesco Ragazzi is Assistant Professor in International Relations, Leiden University. Amandine Scherrer is European Studies Coordinator and Associate Researcher at CCLS.


About the Authors


  • Author
    Didier Bigo
    Didier Bigo
  • Author
    Sergio Carrera Sergio Carrera
    Sergio Carrera
  • Author
    Nicholas Hernanz
    Nicholas Hernanz
  • Author
    Julien Jeandesboz
    Julien Jeandesboz
  • Author
    Joanna Parkin
    Joanna Parkin
  • Author
    Francesco Ragazzi
    Francesco Ragazzi
  • Author
    Amandine Scherrer
    Amandine Scherrer
Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law
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