News / Science & Technology

    EU Data Retention Ruling May Roil US-European Relations

    A major European court ruling regarding electronic privacy this week has the potential to shake up trans-Atlantic commerce and maybe impact the privacy debates in the United States over government snooping, analysts say.

    On Tuesday, the European Union's highest court struck down a controversial directive that encouraged telecommunication and mobile phone companies to retain users' private data records for up to two years.

    The EU's European Court of Justice invalidated the 2006 EU Data Retention Directive on privacy grounds, noting in its opinion that "the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data."

    The Court seemed particularly concerned by the directive's breadth of data collection.

    "The directive covers, in a generalized manner, all individuals, all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any differentiation, limitation or exception being made in the light of the objective of fighting against serious crime," according to an ECJ press release.
    Edward Snowden is seen delivering his "Alternative Christmas Message" on Britain's Channel 4. (Channel 4)Edward Snowden is seen delivering his "Alternative Christmas Message" on Britain's Channel 4. (Channel 4)
    x
    Edward Snowden is seen delivering his "Alternative Christmas Message" on Britain's Channel 4. (Channel 4)
    Edward Snowden is seen delivering his "Alternative Christmas Message" on Britain's Channel 4. (Channel 4)
    ​By invalidating the directive, phone companies and mobile data providers will no longer record user's locations, calls and social contacts without the user's knowledge or consent.

    The ruling comes in the wake of a nearly year-long series of revelations about U.S. data collection activities leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, now living in temporary asylum in Russia.

    In what some observers consider a nod to the Snowden leaks, the court said the directive could lead to Europeans feeling they have become "the subject of constant surveillance."

    "This was the singlemost controversial surveillance Directive ever adopted by the E.U.," said Axel Arnbak, a researcher at the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam.

    "This really was the first time the EU court in Luxemburg was asked about its interpretation of privacy since the adoption of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2009," he said.

    While EU member nations could now begin debating electronic surveillance programs specific to their borders, the court's firm rejection of the 2006 directive means that any new programs could also be challenged in court.

    "Mandated government surveillance," Arnbak said, "strikes at the heart of democracy."

    Impact in the US

    The ruling leaves new questions in its wake. Among them, what conflicting EU and U.S. laws on data collections will mean for commerce, and concerns for the future of President Barack Obama's proposed NSA reforms on surveillance and data collection.

    "Law is culture," said Bennet Kelley, founder of the Los Angeles-based Internet Law Center. "What you do in law speaks about who you are as a people. The EU has a different viewpoint about privacy...than the U.S.."

    Data commerce across the Atlantic, said Kelley, is governed by something called the "European Safe Harbor."

    Before any data can leave an EU member nation, U.S. telecommunications firms must certify they follow privacy policies and programs similar to the more stringent EU protections, creating a "safe harbor" for data privacy.

    However, Kelley said, regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have long known that many U.S. safe harbor certifications are actually false, creating a serious potential problem for U.S. companies doing business in the EU.

    This week's court ruling, he said, will only make commerce more difficult.

    "Even before Snowden, there were concerns about the EU Safe Harbor," Kelley said.

    "There's already skepticism in Europe because of that, and then you throw in Snowden, it creates more distrust. Having one more element of differentiation between the U.S. and EU is just not helpful."

    The ruling also comes just a few weeks after President Obama proposed allowing U.S. telecommunications companies to engage in exactly the sort of data collection the ECJ just rejected.

    As part of his overhaul of U.S. electronic surveillance efforts, President Obama wants to remove what's known as the "bulk metadata collection program" from the NSA and make mobile phone and data companies responsible for electronic record-keeping.

    "Now it seems like it'd be a hard ask," Kelley said.

    Researcher Axel Arnbak agreed.

    "Not only its courts, but the EU Parliament and Commission have quite strongly responded to the Snowden revelations and this data retention ruling," Ambak said. "Those in the U.S. that seek to preserve privacy and freedom in the digital age have an extra tool in their kit."

    The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear a challenge to the NSA bulk metadata collection program.

    Doug Bernard

    dbjohnson+voanews.com

    Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Cy Berg from: Arizona
    April 21, 2014 3:23 AM
    Kelley steals a quote again "If Law defines who we are as people" I hate to see where privacy, freedom of speech is going or the law with anyone showing any credibility with generic statements from Bennet Kelley. He is known as bending the law, and crossing the red line (no pun intended to his hero Obama)
    But this guy will do anything to appear as though he is ahead of the game in Internet Law or appear credible.
    He has no paying career besides a few low life clients that will actually pay him to write harmful articles about others. Kelley is not paid anyting to be quoted, his internet blog radio, or contributing to Huffington.
    Bennet Kelley should talk about why he no longer is allowed to write for Santa Monica Free Press, no longer is paid counsel for Value Click (especially after their 2008 FTC fine) Even the democratic party distanced themselves from Bennet Kelley after the embarrassing and counterproductive smear campaign against former president Bush and the "BushLies.net"

    As far as the Russia-Ukraine Crisis triggering Cyber Wars it s already here and no worse than the garbage that comes out of different news agencies like ILC Cyber Report. Nothing more than the personal mouthpiece for Internet Law Center which is a 1 man show renting a small cubicle in a large office trying to puff up and appear much bigger than he is.
    He has no career anymore.

    by: Earl from: Spain
    April 11, 2014 4:09 AM
    The U.S. has shown itself to be not worthy of trust.
    Information collect by U.S. spy services has been passed on the American companies to use against foreign companies.
    Europe should defend its own citizens and businesses against
    spying from the U.S.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora