As the authorities investigate the terrorist attacks in Paris, Europe’s fragmented regime for dealing with personal data is in the spotlight.
Police forces miss the digital trails left by suspects’ phones, payments and the like; they lack access to other databases, such as airline passenger records, or asylum-seekers’ fingerprints.
Not all countries want more snooping, though: Edward Snowden’s revelations about American spying stoked fury and suspicion in Germany, which considers privacy a fundamental human right. European interior ministers have agreed to some changes; others will require lawmakers’ approval—notably in the European Parliament.
National governments are moving too: Belgium may require ID for anyone buying SIM cards. Some national-security hawks also want new laws weakening encryption. That’s pointless and misguided: internet security requires more encryption, not less.
In any case, the terrorists seem to have communicated chiefly with simple text messages, such as “On est parti on commence” (“We’re off, we’re starting”).