Rules Shielding Online Data From N.S.A. and Other Prying Eyes Advance in Europe

by JAMES KANTER, The New York Times  |  published on October 22, 2013

BRUSSELS — A panel of European Union lawmakers on Monday night backed a measure that could require American companies like Google and Yahoo to seek clearance from European officials before complying with United States warrants seeking private data.

The vote, by an influential committee at the European Parliament, is part of efforts in Europe to shield citizens from online surveillance in the wake of revelations about a far-reaching spying program by the National Security Agency of the United States. The legislation has been under consideration for two years.

The panel, meeting in Strasbourg, France, also endorsed ways of tightening other privacy rules, including fines that could run to billions of euros on the biggest technology companies if they fail to adhere to rules like limiting the sharing of personal data.

The measure, if accepted by Europe, is expected to face fierce lobbying from American officials and technology companies. The legislation would still require the approval of governments and the full European Parliament.

“This evening’s vote is a breakthrough for data protection in Europe and would overhaul E.U. rules, ensuring they are up to the task of the challenges in the digital age,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

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