Tech Companies Act to Prevent U.S. Access to Data Stored Overseas

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-01-25 Print this article Print
Data Defenses

While this was true, Microsoft said that the emails belonged to the customer, not Microsoft and that the DOJ needed to use the established legal procedure to accomplish this.

The European courts, believing with some justification that the U.S. government couldn't be trusted to obey its own laws, have invalidated the entire agreement. The deadline to get a new one in place is the end of January. If no agreement is reached, the EU can simply block all data transfers from Europe to the United States.

As you might imagine, such a data blockade would devastate trade between the United States and the EU. It would also hurt U.S. tech companies that do business in Europe, which is why they're building those data centers to serve their European customers, but without network connections to the United States. Considering that these data centers are located in Europe and are operated by European subsidiaries of their respective companies, this should be an effective barrier against intrusions by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The negotiations are currently at an impasse, however, because the EU is insisting on more effective guarantees that the U.S. government won't simply ignore the treaties again and try to get access to EU data regardless of what the law says. The U.S. Department of Commerce, which is handling the negotiations, is pooh-poohing the EU concerns and is saying that the existing agreement is good enough.

The problem that the EU has is that they don't trust the United States. This should be no surprise. The United States has already run roughshod over the existing treaties, existing agreements and the law of the land in the name of convenience. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence agencies have shown that they have no compunctions against gathering data from U.S. trading partners or even our closest strategic allies.

While there may be some justification on the part of data gathering by intelligence agencies (that is their job, after all), the complete disregard for the law by the Department of Justice is harder to fathom. Worse, the flimsy excuses the agency uses strain credulity. It appears that because of the impatience of a few bureaucrats with an inflated sense of their own importance the DOJ is willing to break the law and perhaps permanently endanger trade and long-established friendly relations with Europe.

I have to say that I can understand the insistence of guarantees by the Europeans. What I don't understand is the belief that they can deal with the current administration in anything like good faith, given its track record on the privacy of data stored overseas.

Perhaps the only thing that will get their attention is for EU authorities to block data transfers and allow trade between the United States and EU to bog down as a result. The question then is whether their own arrogance will allow them to see the damage they're causing.



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