Deutsche Welle reports on a new study commissioned by the European Union (“Fighting cyber crime and protecting privacy in the cloud“) that concerns the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which was recently amended and renewed by Congress and President Obama) and how it could affect Europeans’ privacy rights:
Internet users love their freedom, and being able to access data from anywhere is part of that. Cloud computing services have helped make this possible. Under some cloud computing systems, users are able to store and later access data on a hard drive in cyberspace. But most users don’t know where the data is stored, and the country in which the server is located seems to matter even less to them. That could change.
A study commissioned by the Europan Union found that the data EU citizens have stored on US servers is not protected from access by a third party. US authorities are legally allowed to access the data, in the name of the Patriot Act, according to experts from the Center for the Study of Conflicts and the Center for European Policy Studies, who were commissioned to do the study. […]
Part of the basis for the USA’s extensive security laws is terrorism prevention. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, US lawmakers granted security authorities sweeping powers with the new Patriot Act and with a revision of the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment Act (FISAA). The EU-commissioned report, titled “Fighting cyber crime and protecting privacy in the cloud,” suggests that FISAA could have troubling implications for international users’ privacy. […]
[Thilo Weichert, data protection commissioner for the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein,] believes US companies, like Microsoft, could be forced by their own security authorities to disclose data stored on servers in Europe. And this data could, for example, play a role in economic espionage.
But it’s not just the secrets of large corporations that could be revealed. Individual users are also targeted by investigators, according to Weichert. “The data could play a role on the outcome of a visa application,” he said.
Suspicious individuals could also be reported by US law enforcement to EU authorities. “You can’t even begin to figure out what happens to this data,” Weichert concluded.