It appears that Europe has had quite enough of the NSA and its enablers in Silicon Valley.
BRUSSELS — A panel of European Union lawmakers on Monday night backed a measure that could require American companies like Google and Yahoo to seek clearance from European officials before complying with United States warrants seeking private data.Approval is anticipated for addiitional privacy measures, including the imposition of fines that could run into the billions for violations of rules limiting the dissemination of personal data.
The vote, by an influential committee at the European Parliament, is part of efforts in Europe to shield citizens from online surveillance in the wake of revelations about a far-reaching spying program by the National Security Agency of the United States. The legislation has been under consideration for two years.
As a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (there appears to be no analogue to this organization in the U.S. government) put it:
“This evening’s vote is a breakthrough for data protection in Europe and would overhaul E.U. rules, ensuring they are up to the task of the challenges in the digital age[.]"The legislation would still require the approval of member EU governments, and of course is being angrily opposed by "American officials and technology companies." Europe has its own version of such companies in our Friedmanesque miracle economy:
John Higgins, the director general of DigitalEurope, which represents companies including Apple, Microsoft and I.B.M., criticized the measure and urged member states to look critically at it. “Rushing through a half-baked law risks throwing away a vital and much needed opportunity to stimulate economic growth,” he said.Similar legislation was successfully opposed by the U.S. and its corporate infrastructure two years ago. But that was before Edward Snowden's revelations clarified the extent of the heedless disregard that such companies paid to individual privacy in the face of profits and the the tacit gratitude of the American national security apparatus. One would suspect that the environment for such measures has changed remarkably since that time.
But, the violation of individual privacy rights is probably the least motivating factor here:
For technology companies, the concern about the pending legislation is likely to focus more on the high fines for infractions, and on restrictions on sharing personal data that could limit their ability to gain revenue from advertising and offering new services.Of course, limitations on the tech companies' ability to obtain revenue from advertising and offering new services is a legitimate concern. These regulations might, for example, impinge on the ability of folks like Mark Zuckerberg to spend 30 million dollars buying up surrounding countryside and houses for the purpose of protecting his own privacy.
Companies involved in social media and location-based advertising complain that the proposed rules would be too onerous.So if I understand the argument of the "Director of Privacy" for this industry group correctly, the imposition of regulations to protect consumer privacy is now considered a "burden" on the consumer.
“There’s a very real danger that it becomes meaningless to consumers that we burden them through choice that isn’t particularly relevant to them at a particular time,” said Pat Walshe, the director of privacy for G.S.M.A., an industry group based in Britain representing global mobile telephone operators like Vodafone and Verizon.
OK. Maybe we should let the consumer be the judge of that.
The draft law also affirms that Europeans have a right to erasure of their data but cannot expect that it will be entirely forgotten in some cases.Of course it won't. That would be too much to ask, wouldn't it.