Financial Times: “Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass internet surveillance by US spying agencies may make fewer headlines than they once did. That has not stopped his disclosures continuing to damage the transatlantic relationship. Angered at how the US National Security Agency snooped on EU citizens in the past, the bloc’s politicians and judges are determined to pass data protection laws that ensure such activities are curtailed in future. If Europe continues on its current path, however, it risks inflicting far more harm on its trading relations with the US than it will do on American spies.
The rift between Washington and Brussels over internet surveillance deepened this week after a ruling by Yves Bot, the European Court of Justice’s Advocate General. Under an EU-US treaty called the “Safe Harbour Agreement” signed 15 years ago, more than 4,000 technology companies — including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon — can transfer data that they have collected in Europe wholesale back to the US. This week, Mr Bot declared the pact illegal, arguing that privacy protections across the Atlantic are lower than they should be. In his view, the US fails to protect the personal data of EU citizens from “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” by the country’s intelligence agencies.
Mr Bot’s opinion is not binding and awaits a final ruling by the ECJ next year. Europe’s politicians and legislators need to recognise the economic damage that would be done if it were to become law. US tech companies would be unable to transfer any of their customers’ data out of Europe. They would be forced to create expensive parallel storage systems on EU soil. The ECJ has already put Google and other search companies under pressure by giving citizens the right to have embarrassing queries that include their name removed. Abandoning “Safe Harbour” would add to perceptions that the bloc remains a regulatory minefield for US companies.
More worryingly, the move would accelerate the drift to a Balkanised internet with harmful implications for the US and especially European economies….(More)”