• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

EU Court Advocate General Deals Severe Blow to NSA Surveillance

A legal case, virtually unreported in the U.S., could very well unhinge a major component of this country’s surveillance system. In any case, it certainly challenges it.

Yves Bot, he Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (the European Union’s litigation arena) just published an “opinion” that the privacy and data sharing arrangements between the EU’s 28 countries and the United States are “invalid”, must be revised and cannot now be used to regulate data transfer.

This is to surveillance what an earthquake would be to a city: it wouldn’t halt surveillance but it would destroy one of its major components. While the EU court’s 15 justices have yet to issue their ruling on the opinion, they seldom deviate very much from their AG’s advice and, given that they published his opinion and circulated it to the media, it’s a good bet they are going to approve something close to it. They’ll make that ruling later this year.

But the opinion alone is undoubtedly sending shudders through the halls of the NSA which gets all kinds of data from cooperating big-data companies (like Facebook and Google) and steals data from the ones that don’t cooperate through a program called PRISM.

That’s where one must start in understanding this: PRISM, a highly sophisticated data capture program used by the NSA to steal data from servers in this country and overseas. It’s the most comprehensive spy program in U.S. history and much of its activity involves servers in other countries because that’s where much of the data the NSA wants is stored.

With the advent of the cloud storage programs, your data is “distributed. For instance, an email you send is cut up into little pieces stored in various servers throughout the world. This makes for a more efficient use of storage space. When you ask for your data, the servers cooperate in putting it together and sending it to you. PRISM takes the data as soon as its together, often from a European server right before it is sent out or brought in.

For many years, PRISM was clandestine until whistle-blower Edward Snowden told the world about it.

Enter Maximillian Schrems. An Austrian activist, Schrems has been a Facebook user for many years and, like most activists, he was deeply concerned about Facebook’s policy of transferring his data to the U.S. whenever U.S. Facebook wanted. His logic: Facebook is subject to PRISM data capture and his data would end up with the NSA.

So he sued, targeting Facebook whose European headquarters are in Ireland.

Ireland wouldn’t hear the case; they sent it to the EU’s court where U.S. litigators sniffed at Schrems’ case. If all the data belongs to Facebook, they argued, certainly Facebook can move data wherever if wants. But, argued Schrems’ lawyers, there are actually data laws in various countries preventing that action because several of the EU’s member have strict privacy-protecting and data-collection restriction laws. The U.S. doesn’t.

The simple fact is that it’s much easier for the NSA to get your data from the Internet in the U.S. than it would be in, say, France or Germany. In Europe, companies must be certified as “safe” by the country’s government and must prove they have put into place a series of security and privacy measures. In the United States, the companies “self-certify” by issuing a document detailing what they have in place that can be viewed by users. Nobody checks to see if any of that is true.

So, if you want to give data to the government, move it to the U.S. The AG’s opinion stops that.

In that opinion, Bot cites two concerns:

That the U.S. government has failed to take the appropriate steps Europe has to protect privacy. This is the first incidence of the conflict between the United States and its allied continent many experts have been predicting. Europe has taken steps to protect rights that the U.S. has refused to take.

Also, the fact that U.S. companies can “self-certify” gives them “an enormous advantage” in functioning.

Bot carefully, and diplomatically, avoids the main issue and the main impact but plaintiff Schrems was clear about that:

“This could be a major issue for Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Yahoo,” he said. “All of them operate data centres in Europe, but may need to fundamentally restructure their data storage architecture and maybe even their corporate structure.”

In other words, if a company is going to give its data to the NSA, it can’t operate cloud storage as it used to because part of the cloud is in a country that doesn’t allow companies to give up data so easily.

The court’s final decision, which all should be watching for, may prove monumental.

More articles by:

Alfredo Lopez writes about technology issues for This Can’t Be Happening!

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
Jonathan Cook
Israel Prepares to Turn Bedouin Citizens into Refugees in Their Own Country
Stan Cox
Healing the Rift Between Political Reality and Ecological Reality
Jeff Klein
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the U.S.: Why Progressives Should Not Support a New Imperial Partition in the Middle East
George Ochenski
The Governor, the Mining Company and the Future of a Montana Wilderness
Charles Pierson
Bret Stephens’ American Fantasy
Ted Rall
The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops
Jon Rynn
Saving the Green New Deal
Ajamu Baraka
Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism
Binoy Kampmark
A Coalition of Support: Parliamentarians for Julian Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Down Side of Impeachment
Harvey Wasserman
What Really Happened to American Socialism?
Tom Engelhardt
American Brexit
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail