EU calls for "European cloud" over data spying

Digital chief Neelie Kroes strengthens call for European cloud

Shona Ghosh
4 Jul 2013

EU anger is growing after revelations of mass UK and US snooping programs, with digital chief Neelie Kroes warning European customers off US web services.

Kroes has used the Prism revelations to push forward proposals for a "European cloud", which would entail EU-wide specifications for the procurement of cloud services and unifying data protection rules.

"If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government or their assurances, then maybe they won't trust US cloud providers either. That is my guess," she said. "And if I am right then there are multi-billion euro consequences for American companies."

If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government or their assurances, then maybe they won't trust US cloud providers either

Kroes is calling for a unified European push towards cloud services, warning that localised national projects could prove costly if "denied scale".

"Many governments and other actors can see the cloud advantage – but if your ambitions don’t extend beyond national borders, they don’t extend far enough," she said. "Legal differences within Europe include the current patchwork of divergent data protection rules, which we need to bring together and modernise: but also things like different contract terms."

Her comments follow recommendations from German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich that European citizens shun US services entirely.

EU pushes for probe

The European Parliament has also voted in favour of a resolution to investigate the scope of NSA's surveillance of European citizens. The resolution includes support for the European Commission (EC) should it make good on threats to nullify existing data-exchange agreements with the US.

That would mean withholding information potentially useful in terrorist investigations, such as passenger flight details and data on financial transfers.

The Parliament also asked several member states, including the UK, to check if their own spying programs complied with EU law. Separate reports suggest the EC is already investigating whether GCHQ violated EU data protection laws with the Tempora cable-tapping operation.

Plus, EU vice-president Viviane Reding has written again to the US demanding clarification on Prism, specifically on how much data was collected, the program's scope and what judicial oversight there was for European targets.

"The message is clear: the fact that the programmes are said to relate to national security does not mean that anything goes," she said. "A balance needs to be struck between the policy objective pursued and the impact on fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy. It is a question of proportionality."

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