Europe has another go at getting more access to private data

An inevitable consequence of the recent spate of terrorist incidents has been calls for greater access to private data and now the European Commission has joined in.

According to a Reuters report the EU wants to make it easier for authorities to get hold of private data from companies such as Facebook and Google regardless of which country the data is stored in. Right now due process requires the consent and cooperation of the host country, but the EU wants pan-European coppers to be able to circumvent all that and copy data straight from the cloud.

“I am sure that now in the shadow of the recent terrorist attacks and increasing threats in Europe there will be more understanding among the ministers, even among those who come from countries where there has not been a terrorist attack,” said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova.

EU Justice ministers are getting together today to talk this over, with options on the table reportedly ranging from direct cross-border access to the tech company in question, cutting out local law enforcement, to giving euro-coppers direct, unlimited access to the public cloud. This would, of course, raise all sorts of questions around the balance between security and privacy.

This news coincides with a few other moves to ramp-up pan-European security efforts, including the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. “This is a good day for the European tax payer,” said Jourova. “The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will complement the important work of Eurojust, the EU criminal justice agency, allowing it to dedicate more resources to the fight against terrorism, human trafficking or other crimes.”

There have also been increased efforts to establish a European defence force, with recent Trump comments about NATO resulting in reduced confidence that the US will rush to Europe’s rescue if, to pick a random example, Russia started getting all bellicose. Again the options range from a bit of cash being put into a European Defence Fund, all the way to a formal European army.

Apart from the perfectly legitimate concerns around unrestricted state intrusion into private affairs in the name of security, this latest move on the cloud further complicates discussions around the EU-US Privacy Shield. Europe has often complained about US spooks trying to access the personal data of European citizens but now it seems to be trying to do the same.

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