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.
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

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid