EU MPs Investigating US Info Snooping To See If It Violates EU Privacy Laws

from the whoops dept

Via Slashdot, we learn that a group of European MPs are apparently asking the European Commission to determine if the US government violated EU privacy rules with its attempt to get info from Twitter on various Wikileaks associates. We had already noted that Icelandic officials were upset with the US, since one of the accounts under investigation was an Icelandic Member of Parliament.

Of course, I have to say that as troubling as the US government’s investigation appears to be, this particular response seems a little silly. The request for information was to a US company for info on US servers. That European users were involved really shouldn’t much matter. Now, there is a somewhat silly “safe harbor” system that the Commerce Department has set up for American companies to get around the fact that the EU Privacy Directive forbids the transfer of personal info from Europeans to non-EU countries unless they have similar privacy laws (the US does not). However, I don’t think the safe harbor would apply here either. This seems more like political grandstanding by some EU politicians against the US. I agree that there are problems with the investigation, but worrying about the EU privacy directive seems like a bit of a stretch.

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Companies: twitter, wikileaks

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Comments on “EU MPs Investigating US Info Snooping To See If It Violates EU Privacy Laws”

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Christopher (profile) says:

Actually, by INTERNATIONAL law, the place where the people in question live IS a consideration. Even if a company has a presence in a foreign country, another country can sidestep those laws of their home country and ask for information about someone who is in ANOTHER country without good reason.

Doesn’t seem like a stretch to me about the EU privacy directive, to be blunt…. not ALL of Twitter’s servers are based in the United States, or am I wrong on that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Well the U.S. government is just asking for a smack down from the world.

If they keep pushing those things governments will step up and downright forbid American companies from being used by their population.

The problem?

The request for information was to a US company for info on US servers

If companies cannot assure that they can respect the laws inside those countries, those governments will take steps to negate them market, first and foremost because it reduces competition for them and they see that as good just ask IP apologist anywhere and second because no country in the world wants to give information about its citizens to others let alone allow that be used to do something that could potentially harm them in some way that they didn’t foresee.

American tech companies could find themselves in a very dark place if the American government doesn’t get their act together, people all over the world are just etching for an excuse to exclude somebody.

BTR1701 says:

Re: Law

> If companies cannot assure that they can respect the laws inside
> those countries

What happens if the law in Country A conflicts with the law in Country B? Which law does the US have to respect? Which law is the US company supposed to follow?

There are almost 200 countries in the world and many of them, like the US have multiple jurisdictions in their legal systems. The idea that I should have to become an expert on every legal regime worldwide, from Iran to China to Cote d’Ivoire, merely because I put up a website is ridiculous.

I obey the law where I live. Period. It’s all that’s required of me.

bikey says:

If only we had such grandstanding in the US – imagine a US politician standing up and saying, ‘wait a minute, we have privacy laws (which of course we don’t) to protect citizens’. What a shocker that would be. We don’t even expect it. EU privacy law is real (or at least it used to be before the US shot it out of the water it with Passenger Name Record and the bank-privacy-invading SWIFT). The problem in Europe is that US lobbying (and EU lily-liveredness) in the name of ‘terrorism’ have destroyed much-needed laws protecting individuals from the invasive eyes of the state, and their personal data from becoming a commodity. What Europe needs, and what we all need, is more of this ‘grandstanding’.

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