Friday

19th Jan 2018

Kroes: Spy scandal could harm US Cloud firms

Revelations about America's spy programmes could drive Europeans away from US Cloud providers, according to the EU's digital agenda commissioner.

Speaking on Thursday (4 July) at an IT event in Tallinn Neelie Kroes, a vice-president of the EU's executive arm, warned that:"If European Cloud customers cannot trust the United States government or their assurances, then maybe they won't trust US Cloud providers either. That is my guess. And if I am right then there are multi-billion euro consequences for American companies."

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  • Ilves and Kroes in Tallinn on Thursday (Photo: Jelena Rudi)

"If I were an American Cloud provider, I would be quite frustrated with my government right now," she added.

For his part, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in a statement issued at the IT meeting that EU firms should do more o construct their own Clouds.

"Recent months have proven once again that it’s very important for Europe to have its own data Clouds that operate strictly under European legislation … Right now 95 percent of the cloud services used in the European Union belong to US companies," he noted.

He added in a tweet: "Or, to be blunt: Quit whinging. Get the EU Council, Comm [commission] and an eager, left-behind tech sector to create the safest, securest Cloud around."

Cloud computing uses a network of shared servers, storage applications and computer services which can be accessed on-demand via the Internet, cutting costs to businesses and consumers.

The global Cloud market is also the fastest growing sector of the IT industry, with research by the International Data Corporation projecting that its value will rise from $21.5 billion in 2010 to $73 billion in 2015.

However, its supporters concede that maintaining consumer trust by ensuring that personal data stored online is not lost or compromised is vital to its success.

Documents leaked to the media by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst turned whistle-blower, revealed that US intelligence services are engaged in mass surveillance programmes of EU citizens and businesses.

Kroes' remarks came amid suggestions that two working groups of EU and US officials will start investigations into whether data privacy rights were breached by the programmes next Monday (8 July) - the same day as officials begin negotiations on a multi-billion euro bilateral trade deal.

Speaking with reporters in Vilnius on Thursday (4th July), Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that officials were "targeting" July 8th according to a letter from Eric Holder, the US attorney general.

Lithuania assumed responsibility for the EU's legislative workload at the start of the week as part of its six month rotating presidency of the EU.

For her part, Grybauskaite played down the importance of a US apology for its snooping programmes.

"I never seek an apology. I seek information and results," she said, adding that "let's get clarification and co-operation."

However, the decision on who would represent the EU in the inquest had not been made, said Grybauskaite.

Similar bilateral working groups were created when other secret mass-surveillance programmes regarding bank data (Swift) and personal records of European travellers (PNR) were uncovered by the media a few years ago.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

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