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Paul Merrell

Challenge to data transfer tool used by Facebook will go to Europe's top court | TechCr... - 1 views

  • The five-week court hearing in what is a complex case delving into detail on US surveillance operations took place in February. The court issued its ruling today. The 153-page ruling starts by noting “this is an unusual case”, before going into a detailed discussion of the arguments and concluding that the DPC’s concerns about the validity of SCCs should be referred to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. Schrems is also the man responsible for bringing, in 2013, a legal challenge that ultimately struck down Safe Harbor — the legal mechanism that had oiled the pipe for EU-US personal data flows for fifteen years before the ECJ ruled it to be invalid in October 2015. Schrems’ argument had centered on U.S. government mass surveillance programs, as disclosed via the Snowden leaks, being incompatible with fundamental European privacy rights. After the ECJ struck down Safe Harbor he then sought to apply the same arguments against Facebook’s use of SCCs — returning to Ireland to make the complaint as that’s where the company has its European HQ. It’s worth noting that the European Commission has since replaced Safe Harbor with a new (and it claims more robust) data transfer mechanism, called the EU-US Privacy Shield — which is now, as Safe Harbor was, used by thousands of businesses. Although that too is facing legal challenges as critics continue to argue there is a core problem of incompatibility between two distinct legal regimes where EU privacy rights collide with US mass surveillance.
  • In a written statement on the ruling Schrems added: “I welcome the judgement by the Irish High Court. It is important that a neutral Court outside of the US has summarized the facts on US surveillance in a judgement, after diving through more than 45,000 pages of documents in a five week hearing.
  • Making a video statement outside court in Dublin today, Schrems said the Irish court had dismissed Facebook’s argument that the US government does not undertake any surveillance.
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  • Schrems’ Safe Harbor challenge also started in the Irish Court before being ultimately referred to the ECJ. So there’s more than a little legal deja vu here, especially given the latest development in the case. In its ruling on the SCC issue, the Irish Court noted that a US ombudsperson position created under Privacy Shield to handle EU citizens complaints about companies’ handling of their data is not enough to overcome what it described as “well founded concerns” raised by the DPC regarding the adequacy of the protections for EU citizens data.
  • On Facebook, he also said: “In simple terms, US law requires Facebook to help the NSA with mass surveillance and EU law prohibits just that. As Facebook is subject to both jurisdictions, they got themselves in a legal dilemma that they cannot possibly solve in the long run.”
  • While Schrems’ original complaint pertained to Facebook, the Irish DPC’s position means many more companies that use the mechanism could face disruption if SCCs are ultimately invalidated as a result of the legal challenge to their validity.
Paul Merrell

EU okays 'renewed' data transfer deal, lets US firms move Europeans' private info overs... - 0 views

  • The EU has accepted a new version of the so-called Private Shield law that would allow US companies to transfer Europeans’ private data to servers across the ocean. The EU struck down the previously-reached agreement over US surveillance concerns.
  • The majority of EU members voted in support of the Privacy Shield pact with the US that had been designed to replace its predecessor, the Safe Harbor system, which the highest EU court ruled “invalid” in October 2015 following Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass US surveillance.
  • The newly-adopted agreement will come into force starting Tuesday.The deal, which is said to be aimed at protecting European citizens’ private data, defines the rules of how the sharing of information should be handled. It gives legal ground for tech companies such as Google, Facebook and MasterCard to move Europeans’ personal data to US servers bypassing an EU ban on moving personal information out from the 28-nation bloc. The agreement covers everything from private data about employees to detailed records of what people do online.“For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurance that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms and has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance of European citizens' data,” the statement said.
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  • The new deal now grants greater guarantees to European customers and provides “accessible and affordable redress mechanisms” in case any disputes concerning US spying arise. An ombudsman will also be created within the US State Department to review complaints filed by EU citizens.
  • Privacy Shield, however, has also faced sharp criticism. Concerns about extensive US spying activity were raised in Europe after whistleblower Edward Snowden released a trove of controversial material on Washington’s surveillance practices.Digital rights group Privacy International (PI) said the newly-adopted pact had been drawn up on a "flawed premise" and “remains full of holes and hence offers limited protection to personal data”. 
Paul Merrell

Microsoft to host data in Germany to evade US spying | Naked Security - 0 views

  • Microsoft's new plan to keep the US government's hands off its customers' data: Germany will be a safe harbor in the digital privacy storm. Microsoft on Wednesday announced that beginning in the second half of 2016, it will give foreign customers the option of keeping data in new European facilities that, at least in theory, should shield customers from US government surveillance. It will cost more, according to the Financial Times, though pricing details weren't forthcoming. Microsoft Cloud - including Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online - will be hosted from new datacenters in the German regions of Magdeburg and Frankfurt am Main. Access to data will be controlled by what the company called a German data trustee: T-Systems, a subsidiary of the independent German company Deutsche Telekom. Without the permission of Deutsche Telekom or customers, Microsoft won't be able to get its hands on the data. If it does get permission, the trustee will still control and oversee Microsoft's access.
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella dropped the word "trust" into the company's statement: Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every individual on the planet to achieve more. Our new datacenter regions in Germany, operated in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, will not only spur local innovation and growth, but offer customers choice and trust in how their data is handled and where it is stored.
  • On Tuesday, at the Future Decoded conference in London, Nadella also announced that Microsoft would, for the first time, be opening two UK datacenters next year. The company's also expanding its existing operations in Ireland and the Netherlands. Officially, none of this has anything to do with the long-drawn-out squabbling over the transatlantic Safe Harbor agreement, which the EU's highest court struck down last month, calling the agreement "invalid" because it didn't protect data from US surveillance. No, Nadella said, the new datacenters and expansions are all about giving local businesses and organizations "transformative technology they need to seize new global growth." But as Diginomica reports, Microsoft EVP of Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie followed up his boss’s comments by saying that yes, the driver behind the new datacenters is to let customers keep data close: We can guarantee customers that their data will always stay in the UK. Being able to very concretely tell that story is something that I think will accelerate cloud adoption further in the UK.
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  • Microsoft and T-Systems' lawyers may well think that storing customer data in a German trustee data center will protect it from the reach of US law, but for all we know, that could be wishful thinking. Forrester cloud computing analyst Paul Miller: To be sure, we must wait for the first legal challenge. And the appeal. And the counter-appeal. As with all new legal approaches, we don’t know it is watertight until it is challenged in court. Microsoft and T-Systems’ lawyers are very good and say it's watertight. But we can be sure opposition lawyers will look for all the holes. By keeping data offshore - particularly in Germany, which has strong data privacy laws - Microsoft could avoid the situation it's now facing with the US demanding access to customer emails stored on a Microsoft server in Dublin. The US has argued that Microsoft, as a US company, comes under US jurisdiction, regardless of where it keeps its data.
  • Running away to Germany isn't a groundbreaking move; other US cloud services providers have already pledged expansion of their EU presences, including Amazon's plan to open a UK datacenter in late 2016 that will offer what CTO Werner Vogels calls "strong data sovereignty to local users." Other big data operators that have followed suit: Salesforce, which has already opened datacenters in the UK and Germany and plans to open one in France next year, as well as new EU operations pledged for the new year by NetSuite and Box. Can Germany keep the US out of its datacenters? Can Ireland? Time, and court cases, will tell.
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    The European Community's Court of Justice decision in the Safe Harbor case --- and Edward Snowden --- are now officially downgrading the U.S. as a cloud data center location. NSA is good business for Europeans looking to displace American cloud service providers, as evidenced by Microsoft's decision. The legal test is whether Microsoft has "possession, custody, or control" of the data. From the info given in the article, it seems that Microsoft has done its best to dodge that bullet by moving data centers to Germany and placing their data under the control of a European company. Do ownership of the hardware and profits from their rent mean that Microsoft still has "possession, custody, or control" of the data? The fine print of the agreement with Deutsche Telekom and the customer EULAs will get a thorough going over by the Dept. of Justice for evidence of Microsoft "control" of the data. That will be the crucial legal issue. The data centers in Germany may pass the test. But the notion that data centers in the UK can offer privacy is laughable; the UK's legal authority for GCHQ makes it even easier to get the data than the NSA can in the U.S.  It doesn't even require a court order. 
Paul Merrell

Spies and internet giants are in the same business: surveillance. But we can stop them ... - 0 views

  • On Tuesday, the European court of justice, Europe’s supreme court, lobbed a grenade into the cosy, quasi-monopolistic world of the giant American internet companies. It did so by declaring invalid a decision made by the European commission in 2000 that US companies complying with its “safe harbour privacy principles” would be allowed to transfer personal data from the EU to the US. This judgment may not strike you as a big deal. You may also think that it has nothing to do with you. Wrong on both counts, but to see why, some background might be useful. The key thing to understand is that European and American views about the protection of personal data are radically different. We Europeans are very hot on it, whereas our American friends are – how shall I put it? – more relaxed.
  • Given that personal data constitutes the fuel on which internet companies such as Google and Facebook run, this meant that their exponential growth in the US market was greatly facilitated by that country’s tolerant data-protection laws. Once these companies embarked on global expansion, however, things got stickier. It was clear that the exploitation of personal data that is the core business of these outfits would be more difficult in Europe, especially given that their cloud-computing architectures involved constantly shuttling their users’ data between server farms in different parts of the world. Since Europe is a big market and millions of its citizens wished to use Facebook et al, the European commission obligingly came up with the “safe harbour” idea, which allowed companies complying with its seven principles to process the personal data of European citizens. The circle having been thus neatly squared, Facebook and friends continued merrily on their progress towards world domination. But then in the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden broke cover and revealed what really goes on in the mysterious world of cloud computing. At which point, an Austrian Facebook user, one Maximilian Schrems, realising that some or all of the data he had entrusted to Facebook was being transferred from its Irish subsidiary to servers in the United States, lodged a complaint with the Irish data protection commissioner. Schrems argued that, in the light of the Snowden revelations, the law and practice of the United States did not offer sufficient protection against surveillance of the data transferred to that country by the government.
  • The Irish data commissioner rejected the complaint on the grounds that the European commission’s safe harbour decision meant that the US ensured an adequate level of protection of Schrems’s personal data. Schrems disagreed, the case went to the Irish high court and thence to the European court of justice. On Tuesday, the court decided that the safe harbour agreement was invalid. At which point the balloon went up. “This is,” writes Professor Lorna Woods, an expert on these matters, “a judgment with very far-reaching implications, not just for governments but for companies the business model of which is based on data flows. It reiterates the significance of data protection as a human right and underlines that protection must be at a high level.”
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  • This is classic lawyerly understatement. My hunch is that if you were to visit the legal departments of many internet companies today you would find people changing their underpants at regular intervals. For the big names of the search and social media worlds this is a nightmare scenario. For those of us who take a more detached view of their activities, however, it is an encouraging development. For one thing, it provides yet another confirmation of the sterling service that Snowden has rendered to civil society. His revelations have prompted a wide-ranging reassessment of where our dependence on networking technology has taken us and stimulated some long-overdue thinking about how we might reassert some measure of democratic control over that technology. Snowden has forced us into having conversations that we needed to have. Although his revelations are primarily about government surveillance, they also indirectly highlight the symbiotic relationship between the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ on the one hand and the giant internet companies on the other. For, in the end, both the intelligence agencies and the tech companies are in the same business, namely surveillance.
  • And both groups, oddly enough, provide the same kind of justification for what they do: that their surveillance is both necessary (for national security in the case of governments, for economic viability in the case of the companies) and conducted within the law. We need to test both justifications and the great thing about the European court of justice judgment is that it starts us off on that conversation.
Paul Merrell

U.S. knocks plans for European communication network | Reuters - 0 views

  • The United States on Friday criticized proposals to build a European communication network to avoid emails and other data passing through the United States, warning that such rules could breach international trade laws. In its annual review of telecommunications trade barriers, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said impediments to cross-border data flows were a serious and growing concern.It was closely watching new laws in Turkey that led to the blocking of websites and restrictions on personal data, as well as calls in Europe for a local communications network following revelations last year about U.S. digital eavesdropping and surveillance."Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a 'Schengen cloud' by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them," the USTR said in the report.
  • Germany and France have been discussing ways to build a European network to keep data secure after the U.S. spying scandal. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone was reportedly monitored by American spies.The USTR said proposals by Germany's state-backed Deutsche Telekom to bypass the United States were "draconian" and likely aimed at giving European companies an advantage over their U.S. counterparts.Deutsche Telekom has suggested laws to stop data traveling within continental Europe being routed via Asia or the United States and scrapping the Safe Harbor agreement that allows U.S. companies with European-level privacy standards access to European data. (www.telekom.com/dataprotection)"Any mandatory intra-EU routing may raise questions with respect to compliance with the EU's trade obligations with respect to Internet-enabled services," the USTR said. "Accordingly, USTR will be carefully monitoring the development of any such proposals."
  • U.S. tech companies, the leaders in an e-commerce marketplace estimated to be worth up to $8 trillion a year, have urged the White House to undertake reforms to calm privacy concerns and fend off digital protectionism.
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    High comedy from the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The USTR's press release is here along with a link to its report. http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/USTR-Targets-Telecommunications-Trade-Barriers The USTR is upset because the E.U. is aiming to build a digital communications network that does not route internal digital traffic outside the E.U., to limit the NSA's ability to surveil Europeans' communications. Part of the plan is to build an E.U.-centric cloud that is not susceptible to U.S. court orders. This plan does not, of course, sit well with U.S.-based cloud service providers.  Where the comedy comes in is that the USTR is making threats to go to the World Trade organization to block the E.U. move under the authority of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). But that treaty provides, in article XIV, that:  "Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where like conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on trade in services, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any Member of measures: ... (c)      necessary to secure compliance with laws or regulations which are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Agreement including those relating to:   ... (ii)     the protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to the processing and dissemination of personal data and the protection of confidentiality of individual records and accounts[.]" http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/26-gats_01_e.htm#articleXIV   The E.U., in its Treaty on Human Rights, has very strong privacy protections for digital communications. The USTR undoubtedly knows all this, and that the WTO Appellate Panel's judges are of the European mold, sticklers for protection of human rights and most likely do not appreciate being subjects o
Paul Merrell

US websites should inform EU citizens about NSA surveillance, says report - 0 views

  • All existing data sharing agreements between Europe and the US should be revoked, and US web site providers should prominently inform European citizens that their data may be subject to government surveillance, according to the recommendations of a briefing report for the European Parliament. The report was produced in response to revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on internet traffic, and aims to highlight the subsequent effect on European Union (EU) citizens' rights.
  • The report warns that EU data protection authorities have failed to understand the “structural shift of data sovereignty implied by cloud computing”, and the associated risks to the rights of EU citizens. It suggests “a full industrial policy for development of an autonomous European cloud computing capacity” should be set up to reduce exposure of EU data to NSA surveillance that is undertaken by the use of US legislation that forces US-based cloud providers to provide access to data they hold.
  • To put pressure on the US government, the report recommends that US websites should ask EU citizens for their consent before gathering data that could be used by the NSA. “Prominent notices should be displayed by every US web site offering services in the EU to inform consent to collect data from EU citizens. The users should be made aware that the data may be subject to surveillance by the US government for any purpose which furthers US foreign policy,” it said. “A consent requirement will raise EU citizen awareness and favour growth of services solely within EU jurisdiction. This will thus have economic impact on US business and increase pressure on the US government to reach a settlement.”
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  • Other recommendations include the EU offering protection and rewards for whistleblowers, including “strong guarantees of immunity and asylum”. Such a move would be seen as a direct response to the plight of Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who leaked documents that revealed the extent of the NSA’s global internet surveillance programmes. The report also says that, “Encryption is futile to defend against NSA accessing data processed by US clouds,” and that there is “no technical solution to the problem”. It calls for the EU to press for changes to US law.
  • “It seems that the only solution which can be trusted to resolve the Prism affair must involve changes to the law of the US, and this should be the strategic objective of the EU,” it said. The report was produced for the European Parliament committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, and comes before the latest hearing of an inquiry into electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens, due to take place in Brussels on 24 September.
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    Yee-haw! E.U. sanctuary and rewards for NSA whistle-blowers. Mandatory warnings for customers of U.S. cloud services that their data may be turned over to the NSA. Pouring more gasoline on the NSA diplomatic fire. 
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