EU orders global companies to respect its privacy rules

News comes same day as revelation that countries are using Vodafone to spy on citizens

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 6, 2014
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/376f

Has it really been only a year since the whole Edward Snowden/NSA began? Maybe it's because I had an inkling that we were all being spied on for years, though I obviously had no idea of how big it was, that it seems like we've known this information for a long time now.

But, nope, today marks the one year anniversary of the Washington Post's report on the PRISM program, which involved the U.S. government had been tapping into the servers of numerous Internet companies, including Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple, in order to, essentially, spy on American citizens. Funny how much we didn't know, even then.

So its kind of fitting that today would be the day that Europe finally decided to crack down on American companies and how they conduct themselves when it comes to privacy and data regulation.

The European Union has declared that non-European companies must now abide by Europe's data protection rules, according to a report from Reuters on Friday. The two companies that are being singled out most are Google and Facebook.

It seems fair for Europe to demand that companies that operate within its boundaries to abide by their rules. The only problem right now is how exactly Europe is going to enforce such a policy.

A reform package was approved by the European Parliament in March, but EU governments are divided on it, and, Reuters reports that is still needs work to become law. Part of the issue is that there are 28 members countries in the European Union right now, each with different data protection authorities that a company would have to deal with.

The obvious solution to that would be to allow a company to only deal with the authorities in the country where it is established. But then other countries would have to do along with decisions made by that country, and that could prove to be politically difficult.

This news coincides with yet another report of government using technology to sureville its people: Vodafone, the world's second-biggest mobile phone company, with 400 million customers in 29 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, revealed on Friday that at least six countries are actively using the service to spy on their citizens.

In most countries, the company says, it "maintains full operational control over the technical infrastructure used to enable lawful interception upon receipt of an agency or authority demand."

"However, in a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator’s network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator. In those countries, Vodafone will not receive any form of demand for lawful interception access as the relevant agencies and authorities already have permanent access to customer communications via their own direct link," said Vodafone.

"Vodafone’s networks are designed and configured to ensure that agencies and authorities can only access customer communications within the boundaries of the country in question. They cannot access customer communications on other Vodafone networks in other countries."

Sometimes I wonder if, and when, these kinds of disclosures are going to finally stop.

VatorNews has reached out to both Facebook and Google for comment. We will update if we learn more.

(Image source: europeword.com)