Feeds

US gives in to EU demands over data

PNR and Swift finally put to bed - but still restless

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

The US has capitulated to EU demands that its use of European data in counter-terrorism operations should be subject to foreign scrutiny.

The two sides finally compromised this week on their long-running disagreements over the US requisition of personal data about European citizens from passenger name records (PNR) held by airlines, and their financial transactions processed by Swift, a Belgian mediator of international financial transactions.

In both sets of negotiations the EU had insisted that it appoint people in Washington to oversee the US use of European data. It believed that US privacy laws would not protect European citizens' data from being abused. The US had maintained as a point of principle that European oversight would be a violation of its sovereignty, said EU sources. But both deals have given the EU the power to inspect US investigators.

"The optimistic view is that this is a victory for the EU," said Gus Hossein, a director of Privacy International. However, he and EU officials said the jury was out until the details of the oversight arrangements had been agreed. And the EU had won only limited oversight over the US use of PNR data.

The US had an undeniably strong position on PNR - it had a right to know who was entering its country. Yet the two required legal cover for the transfer to take place and the EU was insistent that, in the absence of firmer US privacy laws, it must have someone inspect the arrangements. Nevertheless, according to the draft agreement still waiting for ratification of member states, the oversight would only occur "periodically". One EU official said this would consist of just one half-term review and someone watching over the US implementation of the agreement. The EU is also sceptical about how binding the agreement would be on the US.

The EU won greater concessions over US use of data commandeered from Swift, even though it did not have a negotiating position and no power to hold the US to a formal agreement. Swift held records of EU financial transactions on US soil, thus the US had a right to access Swift's data. But US interests were sensitive to Swift - it could not afford to undermine the confidence of other firms who hold data on EU soil by failing to assure Swift's customers that the privacy of their financial transactions would not be violated. The question of industrial espionage had even been raised.

So the US took a unilateral position on Swift, but one that guarantees ongoing, independent EU oversight of all its subpoenas on the financial firm.

EU officials still had reservations about both deals. The Swift arrangement allows the US to share data requisitioned from Swift with third countries. The US has assured the EU that it will insist data is treated by third countries according to the principles of data protection. Yet there would be no binding arrangement over third countries that do not have data protection laws.

The European Data Protection Supervisor has expressed its reservations about the final details of the PNR arrangement. The US will retain data about European citizens for fifteen years. Even the EU's negotiating position of three and half years had been too long, it said. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.