EU Politicians Realize US View Of De Facto Ownership Of The Internet Makes Their Data Protection Laws Irrelevant

from the jurisdictional-mess dept

One of the topics that we've discussed since the very beginning of Techdirt is the odd questions of jurisdiction raised by the internet. Pre-internet, most (though not all) jurisdiction questions where fairly straightforward: where was the alleged infraction/crime committed. Once you added the internet to the question, things got weird fast and no one seemed to really want to deal with it. Over the years, there have been some flareups here and there, but over the last couple of years, one thing has started to become clear: the US government feels that it has jurisdiction over much of the internet, even as it decries any other country that suggests something similar.

As we noted recently, folks, like Erik Barnett at Homeland Security, have a rather expansive view over why the US has jurisdiction over any website using a .com or .net domain name. And, of course, it goes way beyond that as well, with the recent admissions from Microsoft that EU data protection rules are effectively meaningless when faced with a US PATRIOT Act request for data. Basically, the US appears to claim that even if the data is stored in Europe, with strict data protection rules, if it's a US company, the US believes it has jurisdiction and can demand access to it.

Not surprisingly, this is upsetting EU officials, who realize that their data protection rules may be effectively meaningless if the US continues to take this rather expansive view of its own jurisdiction.

While you can understand why US officials and law enforcement want to view the world this way, what stuns me is that they appear to be both totally tone deaf to how this makes the US look abroad, as well as oblivious to the obvious unintended consequences and likely counter moves to such a view. Not only does it give moral cover to other countries doing the same thing -- potentially harming US interests significantly -- it's also going to lead to inevitable backlash and widespread harm to US companies and internet users, as users in foreign countries won't go near their services.

This is what happens when you have people who can't think more than single step ahead and put them in a position of power.

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  1. identicon
    Nicedoggy, 12 Jul 2011 @ 5:39am

    Well if American companies can't adhere to the rules of the land the USA just showed them how to proceed, charge every one of them with a crime, convict them and ask to extradite every American CEO to face jail in Europe for breaking their own rules, which probably means American companies will have to close offices in Europe so to not be liable.

    The BRICS could also do something similar.
    China in particular since it reached a point where they are no longer dependent on exports alone to grow, could mean a more assertive country on that front.

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