Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

Rushed US Cloud Act triggers EU backlash

  • The EU is set to propose legislation in April on granting police access to personal data in criminal cases (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Commission says the rushed nature of a controversial US law granting police access to personal data, known as the Cloud Act, may complicate EU efforts on a similar proposal.

The US law was passed last week without any congressional debate after being slipped into a $1.3tn (€1.04tn) spending bill.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The move has sparked widespread criticism from civil right defenders, who say it risks undermining freedoms by circumventing national privacy laws in Europe and elsewhere.

But the commission on Monday (26 March) appeared more reserved in its criticism.

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova is hoping to secure compatible rules with the US when it comes to obtaining evidence stored on servers located in other countries.

"Unfortunately, the US Congress has adopted the US Cloud Act in a fast-track procedure, which narrows the room for the potential compatible solution between the EU and the US," she said in a statement.

Jourova had met with US attorney general Jeff Sessions in Washington DC last week where the two discussed the act as part of a broader effort to force firms to release people's private data directly to prosecutors in case of serious crimes.

Global warrants

The commissioner is set to release an electronic evidence proposal sometime next month, which she says is needed to crack down on cross-border crime.

Like the Cloud Act, the electronic evidence bill aims to allow police access to data stored by companies. And like the Cloud Act, its scope will likely go global, posing broader questions on the extraterritoriality of warrants.

Authorities say the legal framework is needed to speed up access given that the current method of using so-called mutual legal assistance treaties or MLATs is too cumbersome.

The Cloud Act also empowers the US president to force US services providers to deliver content data to a foreign government without the need of any mutual legal assistance regimes.

The issue is at the heart of an on-going legal tug of war between US prosecutors, Microsoft and Ireland. Microsoft has so far refused to relinquish the content of emails to the US, which wants them as part of a criminal investigation in New York.

The emails are held by Microsoft servers hosted in Ireland. Microsoft says it cannot so easily surrender the emails given robust EU privacy rules, noting that other avenues like MLATs exist to extract the data. Companies worry that direct access may also erode consumer confidence.

But the EU is pressing for similar powers in its forthcoming proposal despite wider reforms launched by the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, to streamline MLATs.

Who's in charge?

The push appears to be driven by the internal affairs department or DG Home at the European Commission. Even though the electronic evidence proposal is spearheaded by the justice department, DG Home has taken the lead, according to one observer.

"This initiative [e-evidence], even though on paper is being led by DG Justice, in practice it is being led by DG Home and I think that is maybe why you see this flexibility in law enforcement," said Maryant Fernandez-Perez, a senior policy advisor at the European Digital Rights Initiative (EDRi), a Brussels-based NGO.

She noted that the EU's upcoming data protection regulation also contains an article that prevents companies from sharing data with foreign governments unless they've secured an international agreement or a mutual legal assistance treaty.

EU seeks access to 'digital evidence'

Interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday agreed to boost intelligence sharing, in an echo of previous pledges after last November's Paris attacks.

News in Brief

  1. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  2. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  3. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law
  4. Open Society Foundation takes Hungary to court
  5. EU court asked to rule on halting Brexit
  6. EU threatens Switzerland on stock trading
  7. Italy's new basic wage restricted to Italians
  8. UK tycoon offers to create pro-Brexit party

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  2. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  3. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  4. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  5. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  6. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  7. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  8. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us