When a country doesn’t take its citizens’ privacy very seriously, it would be a surprise if its guest fared any better. Poor Ed Snow really did a number on foreign relations when he disclosed classified NSA data to the media. Aside from spying on American citizens, the National Security Agency was also busy spying on foreign nationals, including esteemed guests. One of biggest names to come out of this expose’ was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She shouldn’t feel so bad though. It’s any security agency’s job to monitor foreign visitors. The same might be true back in Germany. Besides, if the NSA was spying on the country’s own citizens, she shouldn’t expect any less. The practice continues but a new bill is currently in the works that should protect foreign nationals especially from allied countries should their collected records be inappropriately disclosed.
It’s an open secret. All foreign visitors should be monitored for their security and the country’s. What’s embarrassing is for any visitor’s name to be disclosed in the news as if they can’t be trusted. It’s actually embarrassing to both sides; that the country is spying on allied diplomats like Merkel and that Merkel and party are being monitored for any suspicious activity. It’s a necessary evil as long as the whole thing is kept under wraps. If you’d remember the scenario in Olympus Has Fallen. Hidden North Korean terrorist operatives within the South Korean delegation combined with possible sleeper cells managed to take over the White House. Highly unlikely but possible. Monitoring foreign officials, visitors and non-US citizens is a necessity as nowadays, everyone wants a piece of the US. Remember the Tsarnaevs?
It’s been years since the unpleasant revelation and the US is still doing damage control. One measure to somewhat dampen the situation is to extend privacy rights to non-US citizens. Not that they’d be obviously, actively monitored but to a point that they‘re allowed to view the collected data and that they’d have the right to seek legal measures if the records are disclosed or misused. Americans and permanent residents apparently have such rights under the Privacy Act of 1974. The act allows them to check their records, correct any mistakes and sue any agency that misuses those records. The new act mostly applies to important allies of the US, especially the European Union. Merkel would be pleased.
The proposal known as the Judicial Redress Act has the approval of many tech firms as it’s another step towards privacy to their foreign customers. These customers were highly affected when the Snowden scandal came out. American firms are now hard-pressed to win the trust of potential foreign customers and ensure that services will be discreet. In fact, Microsoft is currently embroiled in a legal tussle with the government involving the disclosure of a customer’s Hotmail account based in Ireland. Microsoft earned some unlikely allies in this case like Apple and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“…that degradation of trust has translated into significant negative commercial consequences for U.S. firms, with global consumers choosing technology solutions from other providers…Additionally, the revelations have led a number of foreign governments to consider proposals that would impede the borderless nature of the internet – the very characteristic that has permitted the Internet to thrive,”
— Business Software Alliance, Consumer Electronics Association and other tech groups
The proponents of the Judicial Redress Act include Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. These are tech firms without borders. These companies also believe that the Privacy Act of 1974 should also be updated to cope with the borderless nature of the internet. The JRA needs to be enacted as soon as possible if US citizens expect the same treatment abroad and will also aid in the data exchange agreement with the EU for terrorist and criminal investigations. The passing of the bill should also help in the long-debated measure of sharing passenger manifests between the US and the EU vice-versa, which could really help in case any unsavory chaps should smuggle themselves to and from both continents.
The bill, if passed will be good news to foreign citizens on American soil that they can at least be able to defend themselves in case government spying goes south. With regards to being monitored, any guest knows the host has an eye out for them. It all depends on how extensive and intrusive it gets. After all, the host can only direct guests to the restroom, not go in after them.