Thursday

15th Nov 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.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

Romania's data protection authority has threatened a €20m fine against reporters investigating high-level corruption. The European Commission has since issued a warning, telling Romanian authorities to give press exemptions when it comes to privacy rights.

Romania 'using EU data protection law to silence journalists'

An award-winning journalism outlet in Romania is being threatened with fines by the country's data protection authorities - for having disclosed connections, on Facebook, of powerful politicians and a firm embroiled in scandal.

News in Brief

  1. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  2. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  3. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact
  4. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  5. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  6. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  7. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  8. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  2. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  3. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  4. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  5. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  6. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  7. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  8. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us