By Ivan Vandermeersch Secretary General BDMA
“I wish I had that power,” Trump stated about the hacked e-mails of the Democratic National Committee. “Man, that would be power.” He supports legislation allowing the NSA to hold bulk meta data, with a court “which is available any time on any day … to issue individual rulings on when this metadata can be accessed”. Everything is currently established by executive order, and not in legislation, giving Trump substantial freedom. It is hard to say how much transparency he will allow, unless someone like Snowden is prepared to break through the silence.
During his electoral campaign, Trump argued for the surveillance of mosques and a database with information on all Muslims. If he decides to use surveillance as a tool to create a social gap, he will have the power to do so … The Silicon Valley giants will then have no choice but to oblige.
Snowden once said that ““everything you type into that Google prompt is being saved forever”. The problem with most American internet services is that they collect personal data by way of “payment” for a “free” service, making them the ideal “partner” for government surveillance.
This interventionist perfume can also be found in Europe.
The British intelligence service GCHQ is closely linked to the American NSA, often acting on the latter’s behalf. The NSA and GCHQ cooperate so closely that surveillance under Trump will undeniably also infringe upon the confidentiality of British communications. Worrying, to say the least.
When the EU-US Privacy Shield was established, the European Commission expressed its concern on how far-reaching this mechanism for the transfer of personal data between the EU and the US actually is. The predecessor of the EU-US Privacy Shield, Safe Harbor, was invalidated in a 2015 judgment of the European Court on Prism and the mass surveillance program of the American government, suddenly throwing thousands of companies into a legal vacuum for data flows between the EU and the US. The first annual evaluation of the EU-US Privacy Shield is approaching … and Digital Rights Ireland, a privacy advocacy group, is challenging the “Privacy Shield” before the European Court …
Suspicion is growing, and if the Privacy Shield were to be suspended, this would create a great deal of uncertainty for American companies wanting to process data of EU citizens in the US. And for companies in the EU it would also imply an increased risk for their personal data if they consent to providing it to colleagues in the United States, who may in turn be forced to transfer it to the NSA under Trump.
Quite a few stakeholders at European level will therefore think twice before using services provided by their American colleagues, potentially to the benefit of local alternative solutions.
Because more digital autonomy is what Europe owes itself.