EU-US talks close to collapse – Web privacy war ensues?

Indubitably, lots of US companies are already breaking EU law - so when's the bust?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Privacy talks between the US and Europe are close to collapse, according to US sources, and Web database hell could ensue. An EU directive last autumn banned export of personal data covering EU citizens to countries whose standards aren't deemed sufficient by Europe, and this includes the US. Nobody's been busted so far, as the two sides have been in a deep huddle and trying to avoid lighting the touch-paper, but lots of you people (The Register included, unfortunately, but that's another story) out there are currently breaching EU law by holding personal records on EU citizens. If a deal can't be reached, the likelihood of banana- or hormone beef-style escalation will increase. Plenty US, and some non-EU, companies already hold data on EU citizens, and the number of 'offences' will increase vastly as more and more business is conducted on the Web. Any registration of a product with a US company (hello Microsoft), for example, would probably be an offence unless the bare minimum of data was collected. Comments about business partners (checked the fields in the groupware you're using recently?) could also be offences. And if a deal isn't done soon, someone, somewhere, is going to press the button. The noises coming out of the US may however involve a certain amount of spinning. Negotiators are due to meet in Brussels tomorrow with a view to stitching up a deal in time for a US-European summit late next month, and we Europeans can't help noticing that US negotiating teams tend to turn up the volume just before crunch meetings. But it's a sticky one, just the same. The basic dispute is about how privacy is actually protected, rather than whether or not (or to what extent) it should be protected. The EU goes for legislation and the use of agencies to enforce standards, while the US wants to stick with voluntary codes of conduct. Letting industries regulate themselves has of course been the inclination of UK governments for the past 20 years or so, but we suspect this may be connected with why our trains (among other things) don't work. At the moment the US team seems to be digging its heels in, even suggesting that it ought to be OK if companies just made formal commitments to privacy protection principles. This doesn't seem likely to play in Brussels, so failing an extremely dubious fudge, we could be headed for a privacy war. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story


Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.