News / Europe

Planned EU Privacy Law no Magic Bullet Against US Spying

Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session on the implications for EU citizens' privacy of the US Prism and other internet surveillance cases, on July 4, 2013 during a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session on the implications for EU citizens' privacy of the US Prism and other internet surveillance cases, on July 4, 2013 during a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Stung by revelations about the scale of U.S. electronic spying, Europe has been itching to show it can protect its citizens from snooping - but planned new privacy legislation risks a head-on collision with U.S. law.
 
However much European Parliament lawmakers may fume at the leaks from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Europe has a poor record in battles with U.S. justice and intelligence services over its citizens' data.
 
What is more, the Internet is dominated by the likes of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo! - U.S. companies that will feel more bound by U.S. laws compelling them to give information to their intelligence services.
 
“It is certainly not up to Europe alone to determine what data can be accessed in the United States,” said privacy lawyer Eduardo Ustaran of Field Fisher Waterhouse in London.
 
For U.S. firms, any new laws drawn up in Brussels are unlikely to take precedence. Lawyers say potential U.S. punishments are more than enough to dissuade companies from complying with European rules.
 
“What would you prefer: to be slapped by U.S. law or the prospect of a European fine that may never be enforced?” said Mark Watts, an lawyer specializing in IT at Bristows in London.
 
Documents leaked by Snowden have shown that the U.S. National Security Agency monitors vast quantities of email and telephone data of both Americans and foreigners. Attempting to limit the damage, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that U.S. intelligence-gathering was focused on specific concerns like counter-terrorism, cyber-security and weapons of mass destruction.
 
But U.S. allies are concerned, and the European Parliament, where more than 750 members represent 500 million citizens across 28 countries, plans to back a tough new privacy law by the end of the year.
 
Jusr one catch
 
The law would oblige companies to tell European regulators when an intelligence service was requesting data on a European citizen, and to get the regulators' approval.
 
U.S. companies and lawyers say there is one glaring catch:  in most cases they are not allowed to tell anyone, even a European regulator, about a data request.
 
Demands for information often come from courts set up in 1978 under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA), with a gagging order attached. Breaching such an order of a FISA court can spell hefty fines and even jail.
 
Google and Microsoft have so far failed to lift the gag, underlining the difficulties U.S. companies face in complying with rules in Europe.
 
“Prior authorization for transfer of EU citizen data is in direct conflict with U.S. law, namely the FISA act,” said an industry source on condition of anonymity.
 
Recent history provides little encouragement for the Europeans.
 
In 2011, attempts to bring in EU legislation allowing EU regulators a peek at U.S. intelligence requests before they were processed failed after U.S. officials complained it would hamper counter-terrorism investigations. The EU has also tried, with limited success, to limit U.S. access to European travel and financial data.
 
European hardball?

 
This time is different, says Jan Philip Albrecht, a German Green member of the European parliament (MEP) who will negotiate the shape of the draft law with EU countries.
 
“The problem is that we allowed the U.S. to have this supremacy. And I don't think we have to,” he said.
 
Many European Parliament lawmakers are resolute that U.S. companies must follow European laws if they want to reap profits in Europe, says Manfred Weber, a German conservative MEP.
 
He said companies could be forced to store Europeans' data on a 'European cloud', rather than on U.S. servers, to help keep it out of reach of U.S. authorities.
 
Caspar Bowden, Microsoft's former privacy chief, said Europe has a menu of choices to play tough. It could, for example, revoke existing agreements on data security such as the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor framework, which obliges firms to inform customers about data transfers.
 
Industry sources who do not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue say they wish the European Union and the United States would resolve their privacy differences and “leave companies out of it”.
 
They advocate an international convention setting the rules of the spying game. Germany, for example, is seeking to negotiate a 'no-spy deal' with Washington, while also pushing for a stronger European IT industry less reliant on U.S. firms.
 
Tech entrepreneurs warn scaremongering over spying will make Europeans more nervous about adopting cloud computing, which offers much cheaper data storage, but sometimes with back-ups in different continents.
 
Jumping on the privacy bandwagon may win votes in the European Parliament election, due next May. But the parliament may struggle to win approval for its ideas from EU governments, whose police and intelligence agencies also benefit from access to the data that the U.S. firms hold.
 
Faced with such legal and political complexities, Europeans may have to just reconcile themselves to a degree of access to their data, a European diplomat said.
 
“As long as we don't have our version of Google and Apple, we may as well turn off our Internet or learn to live with this.”

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid