Wednesday

26th Jul 2017

US envoy talks down fears on internet snooping

  • US envoys claim American data protection laws are more stringent than in some member states (Photo: CE)

A senior US official has tried to dispel the notion that post-9/11 America abuses internet privacy, as EU lawmakers and civil liberties activists look to the future of web policing.

The state department's top official on international communications, Philip Verveer, who in his past work as a lawyer in the private sector also helped put together some of the US' biggest pieces of media legislation, led the mission to the EU capital on Thursday (26 January).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He told press that US authorities adhere to stricter rules than some EU member states when attempting to access information stored on the 'cloud' - the emerging market of online data storage and services provided by companies.

Cloud data can belong to an individual from one country, be stored on a server in another country, which belongs to a company located in a third country and is managed by a sub-contractor from a fourth place. People who use Google Docs, for instance, typically do not know where their files are actually stored or who manages them.

Despite the complexities of cloud computing, the US officials said it is already covered by EU and US bilateral frameworks on data protection dating back to 2001.

"We think there are serious misunderstandings about the availability to data by US law enforcement on the cloud," Verveer noted.

Verveer and a fellow official from the US mission to the EU, Stewart Robinson, said the so-called Patriot Act comes in for undue criticism.

Passed less than two months after 9/11, NGOs such as the American Civil Liberties Union have said it gives authorities too much leeway on monitoring internet traffic and private emails in the name of national security.

The US officials on Thursday said independent judges have to give law enforcement agents special permission to access anybody's email or private records in safeguards equivalent to those in EU countries.

"The Patriot Act is really not an issue at all and yet it surfaces a lot ... Claims that the Patriot Act give the US government carte blanche access to data from US providers are simply wrong," Robinson said.

For its part, the European Commission on Wednesday published new legal proposals on how to protect people's online privacy.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told press that EU companies will in future face liabilities from both sides if they hand over data to US law enforcement agencies - from the US if they do not comply and from the EU if they give too much.

"This is a complicated question. We have put a solution into our regulation and the future will show if this will be operable or not," she said.

For her part, Liberal Dutch MEP Sophie in't Veld told EUobserver that EU companies tend to give the US whatever it wants on the quiet.

Reding had said that the Patriot Act does not apply in the EU. But In't Veld said that if a company has any kind of US presence, then the US can subpoeana data from its servers in Europe.

Online privacy and free speech is gathering momentum as a popular cause around the world.

The EU and 22 member states on Thursday in Tokyo signed a controversial treaty designed to combat intellectual property theft - Acta - which its critics say will curb internet freedom.

With MEPs still due to ratify the text, hackers the same day fired a warning shot by launching a 300,000-hit-a-second denial of service attack on the EU parliament's website.

An internal parliament email attributed the problem to the so-called Anonymous group.

Reding slams US over data privacy

Justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Monday criticised the US for lacking interest and not having yet appointed a proper negotiator on an over-arching data protection agreement with the EU. Her words came as the bloc's own data protection supervisor slammed the EU internal security strategy for being unclear about privacy.

Focus

Commission downplays Parliament EU-US data privacy concerns

Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has insisted that US authorities cannot override EU laws on data privacy, following concerns expressed by MEPs that US laws and subpoenas could force EU companies to disclose personal data to US law enforcement agencies.

Focus

Battle lines drawn up in EU row on Acta

The European Commission has stepped into the growing row over the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, Acta, as leading MEPs refuse to fast-track parliamentary approval due to bad faith in talks.

EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday.

Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU

Lawmakers in Poland adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court, despite warnings from the EU that the move could trigger a sanction procedure over the rule of law.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. EU and Turkey fail to defuse tensions
  2. European law will apply 'for years' in the UK, says EU judge
  3. US votes to sanction EU firms in Russia project
  4. Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown
  5. EU to give research tips on dual food quality
  6. Polish president's veto leaves uncertainties over next move
  7. EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto
  8. UK presses the Brexit pause button