October 21, 2013

A UK-EU showdown may be shaping up over cybersnooping

And, it won't be about the Euro, or a Tobin tax, or other financial measures that get the City of London and the Conservative Party up in arms.

Rather, the UK-US special relationship vs. UK membership in the European Union may be at risk over the National Security Agency's cybersnooping, and the active participation in that of Britian's Government Communications Headquarters, which Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian know all about.

The "push"?

A new EU law specifically designed (and carefully designed, one hopes) to fight such cybersnooping when it intrudes on personal privacy.
European Union lawmakers on Monday were set to approve sweeping new data protection rules to strengthen online privacy, and sought to outlaw most data transfers to other countries' authorities to prevent spying.

The legislation was widely expected to pass a committee vote late Monday. Still, it is likely to be amended later since it also requires approval by Parliament's plenary and the EU's 28 member states. Lawmakers hope to conclude the process before the end of their term in May.
And, those last two sentences are where Merrie Olde England comes into play.

More of the details:
In response to the revelations of the National Security Agency's online spying activities, lawmakers also toughened the initial draft regulation, prepared by the European Commission, to make sure companies no longer share European citizens' data with authorities of a third country, unless explicitly allowed by EU law or an international treaty.

That means a U.S. tech company handing over data to U.S. authorities, including information on its European customers, might be violating EU law.
That said, the law was originally targeted at for-profit companies gathering too much data, and using it for too many hypercapitalist reasons. The toughening in this area comes to the 500 million residents of the EU courtesy Edward Snowden.

That said, could this be a coalition breaker in Britain? Would Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg actually find a spine, or cojones? What about some backbencher Conservatives? Will British in general, at least in the posh class, resent Brussels trying to force it to have elements of a written constitution? Stay tuned.

That said, as I noted, this was originally written to be a consumer protection law. And, with updating, even just there, it's a damn skippy bit of legislation. Also, even there, it's something that America's posh political class will never let see the light of day. Here's the consumer protection details:
The legislation, among other things, aims at enabling users to ask companies to fully erase their personal data, handing them a so-called right to be forgotten. It would also limit user profiling, require companies to explain their use of personal data in detail to customers, and mandate that companies seek prior consent. In addition, most businesses would have to designate or hire data protection officers to ensure the regulation is properly applied.

Grave compliance failures could be subject to a fine worth up to 5 percent of a company's annual turnover (revenue in European financial lingo) — which could be hundreds of millions of dollars, or even a few billion dollars for Internet giants such as Google.
Boom. And, revenue, not profit.

There's also this:
Consumers, in turn, would be able to file complaints with their national authority, regardless of where the targeted service provider is based. For example that would make it easier for an Austrian consumer to complain about a social media site such as Facebook, which has its EU headquarters in Ireland.
Picture if I could file a complaint about Google, or Facebook, here in Texas. (Of course, that provision would also never see the light of day in the US.)

Oh, the EU has its flaws. It's susceptible to lobbyists itself at times. (That's why, with even more Big Pharma companies headquartered in the EU + Switzerland, its pharmaceutical regulation, as is the UK's as a member state, is even more toothless than here in the US. And, while it's talked tough with Google in the last couple of years, both it and member states such as Germany haven't acted a lot tougher than the US.)

But, overall, it has a stronger regulatory environment than the US, and the financial muscle to make it mean something.

Well, except for even laxer controls on lobbyists, it has a stronger regulatory environment.

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