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Microsoft warns that the PATRIOT Act, recent renewed by President Obama, will allow the U.S. to invade EU citizens' private data without notification.  (Source: Paramount Pictures)

The revelation could lead the EU to forcing Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others to adopt isolated hosting in Europe for European services. Currently much of the hosting for European users is handled in America, exposing their data to invasive U.S. laws.  (Source: Flickr/TJCrowley)

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) have proposed a privacy bill that may help fix the awkward standoff.  (Source: AP Photo)
Microsoft tipped off the EU about possible data grab

The European Union (EU) is a little bit upset with the United States federal government after it caught wind of a possible plan to swipe EU citizens' private data from cloud service providers, in violation of EU laws.  And the U.S. government can blame software giant Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) for letting the secret out of the bag.

I. PATRIOT Act: Policing the World

People often get caught up in possible domestic spying issues of the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001" (USA PATRIOT Act of 2001) as it authorizes the gathering of "foreign intelligence information" from U.S. citizens.

But the bill, which was renewed for four years by President Barack Obama in 2011, is primarily aimed at gathering intelligence from foreign nations.  In that regard, much of its authorizations deal with "spying" on foreign nations -- not solely U.S. citizens.

With citizens in the U.S. and Europe increasingly using "the cloud" -- services from companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google Inc. (GOOG), and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) -- the question becomes how secure these resources are.

While the U.S. does not guarantee the privacy of its citizens online, the EU has a law titled the Data Protection Directive, which mandates that the EU protect the privacy of its citizens.  The Directive demands that citizens be informed any time private data is obtained.  The problem is that mandate does little to stop the U.S. from secretly seizing cloud data in the name of the PATRIOT Act according to warnings from Microsoft and top lawyers.

II. Our Laws Are Greater Than Yours

Microsoft warns that under the PATRIOT Act, it might not only be forced to hand over EU citizens' data; it might also be forced to do so secretly, without informing the EU.  This would directly violate the privacy protections the EU promises to enforce.

The company writes, "In a limited number of circumstances, Microsoft may need to disclose data without your prior consent, including as needed to satisfy legal requirements, or to protect the rights or property of Microsoft."

Sophia In't Veld (Netherlands) an EU parliamentarian, voiced outrage at the prospect, stating, "Does the Commission consider that the U.S. PATRIOT Act thus effectively overrules the E.U. Directive on Data Protection? What will the Commission do to remedy this situation, and ensure that E.U. data protection rules can be effectively enforced and that third country legislation does not take precedence over E.U. legislation?"

"I hope Commissioner Reding will respond soon, as this is really a key issue. Essentially what is at stake is whether Europe can enforce its own laws in its own territory, or if the laws of a third country prevail. I hope the Commissioner will ensure that the U.S. and other countries respect E.U. laws in E.U. territory. I don't think the U.S. would be amused if Europeans (or other non-U.S. authorities) were to get access to databases located within U.S. jurisdiction."

The EU and the U.S. already have an agreement called Safe Harbor, which allows for the sharing of data under certain restrictions such as the promise of reasonable data security, and clearly defined and effective enforcement.  In these cases the EU is informed of the request, so it can inform the affected citizens about it.

The problem is that the PATRIOT Act offers a far easier secret backdoor to the same information.  And there's little the EU can do to stop it.

Theo Bosboom, IT lawyer with Dirkzager Lawyers comments, "I'm afraid that Safe Harbor has very little value anymore, since it came out that it might be possible that U.S. companies that offer to keep data in a European cloud are still obliged to allow the U.S. government access to these data on basis of the PATRIOT Act. Europeans would be better to keep their data in Europe. If a European contract partner for a European cloud solution, offers the guarantee that data stays within the European Union, that is without a doubt the best choice, legally."

That could spell big trouble for companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple should the EU decide to apply restrictions or mandates to their services in order to protect its citizens' privacy from foreign powers.  Such restrictions could for the companies to switch to local, isolated serving to prevent the U.S. from having access to the data.  However, such schemes would be pricey to implement.

III. Does U.S. Privacy Bill Provide an Answer?

One potential solution may lie with the pending online privacy protection legislation proposed by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).  

The bill has received much resistance from the online data mining and advertising community, as it suggests the creation of a mandatory opt-out of data gathering.  Such an opt-out could be cost-prohibitive for smaller sites and could seriously undermine online advertising's profitability.

The bill could also make it harder to use the PATRIOT Act to grab information without public notification.

States EU Data Protection Commissioner Viviane Reding, "I welcome a draft Bill of Rights just introduced in the U.S. Congress as a bipartisan initiative of Democrats and Republicans. The Commission also shares the main objective of the Bill: strengthening individuals' trust in new technologies through compatible standards."

A compromise may be reached, but it's doubtful this will be the last we hear of this controversy.



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RE: What could happen.
By icanhascpu on 7/6/2011 1:52:38 PM , Rating: 5
Its thinking like you two idiots that puts this country on a slippery slope while spouting its all find and dandy becuse nothing has happened (that you know of) yet .

What kind of stupid logic is that? The Patriot Act is the furthest from what it should be as you can be. The USA is less free and less privet towards its common citizens than ever in the name of fighting 'terrorism'. You are a couple of tools in this process.


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: What could happen.
By rrsurfer1 on 7/6/2011 2:05:55 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Every says it, but nobody can actually point to an incident where it made someone less free or took someones freedoms away. Unless you are talking about your freedom to make an international phone call to a terrorist.


Well, the whole point is that there's no disclosure required... therefore you would never know if it's making anyone "less free". I would argue that it removes freedom that was there before, hence "less freedom"...

The patriot act may be specific in it's scope but that scope is interpreted/twisted by human minds... that's the issue. Do you even understand what slippery slope is? Obviously not...


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: What could happen.
By keegssj on 7/6/2011 3:09:44 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Umm no. Before the Patriot Act they would get a judge or whatever to give them a warrant to tap your calls. You were NOT informed of the warrant at all. It was all done 100% behind your back. So how is there a difference in "freedom" between not knowing about a warrant wiretapping you and not knowing about the lack of one wiretapping you? Hello?


Big difference - A Judge looked at it and determined that it was a reasonable request. I have yet to hear anything that shows that the process didn't work. The vast bulk of the requests were granted, and quickly. So why did we need the loss of checks and balances?


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: What could happen.
By Spuke on 7/6/2011 3:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
The government is already allowed to "spy" on us without a warrant BUT that "spying" has a time limit before they must get a warrant to continue. My guess is that the Patriot Act expands on that or makes that more specific. Either way, it was already legal.


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/2011 4:32:48 PM , Rating: 1
I know that, but don't tell these kids. They believe the Patriot Act was the first time in history the Government did anything like this. If you went strictly by the liberal media coverage, you would think it was unprecedented or something.

Debating legality and the Federal Government is almost pointless at times anyway. They believe that they hold all the power, and they make all the laws, so whatever they want to do is legal anyway.


RE: What could happen.
By Fritzr on 7/6/2011 10:57:25 PM , Rating: 3
For those who would like to do a little digging into history, look up "Red Scare". This was the 'terrorism' threat of the 20's through the 80s or 90s.

If you needed to do anything that would get people upset you would state that the Reds must be fought and your actions are necessary to fight the Reds. McCarthy is the best known example, but others used this tactic also both in US and elsewhere. Even the Nazis used "The Reds are coming!" in their climb to power.

One legacy of the Red Scare is that political parties calling themselves Communist are outlawed even in countries where freedom of speech and/or political affiliation is supposedly guaranteed.

With the disintegration of the USSR the threat of the Reds lost it's power as a bogeyman. Today when someone needs to justify a power grab, they are fighting 'terrorism'.

I can see the EU passing a law requiring any company to notify the EU whenever information covered by their privacy act is requested along with a fine that will cause even Microsoft to be unhappy if they do not comply. That coupled with a US law with similar penalties if they DO notify the EU should have interesting results :P

As far as court control, that applies only if the courts are allowed to become aware of the violation. One of the abuses of the National Security Letters were FBI agents drafting NSLs without following procedure and then counting on the fact that it is illegal to mention such a letter to anyone, including the court that is supposed to give permission before the letter is delivered, to prevent the recipient from discovering that the letter was illegal and the FBI agent was violating the law.

This behavior was 'punished' by the FBI administration saying that they would handle it as an internal matter and all information about who, what, when and any action taken would be confidential and not to be released to anyone outside the FBI. This was not the only group abusing the Patriot Act, just one that made the news, until the serious punishment of allowing it to be handled as an internal matter was handed down and discussion was deemed to violate National Security :P


RE: What could happen.
By Paj on 7/7/2011 8:45:59 AM , Rating: 1
Are you actually serious? You actually think that there's nothing wrong with having judicial oversight into obtaining a warrant?

'Oh, but Ive done nothing wrong'

Its exactly how the fascist regimes of world war II got to exert the level of control they commanded. Slowly eroding freedoms, bit by bit, under the pretense of 'protecting' the citizens from some sort of 'menace'. Eventually you end up with a totalitarian state - and before anyone realises whats wrong, its already too late.

For someone so concerned about the power of 'big government', you're remarkable choosy in how you interpret it.


RE: What could happen.
By tng on 7/6/2011 4:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
RC, not sure why you are bothering with this. If the Patriot Act had been established on Bill Clinton's watch or Obama's watch there would be far less hysteria about it.


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: What could happen.
By Bad-Karma on 7/11/2011 3:05:29 AM , Rating: 2
Ironic that you should mention that...

quote:
"After the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Joe Biden drafted anti-terrorist legislation, which was ultimately defeated. He later claimed publicly on several occasions that the USA PATRIOT Act — which eased restrictions on the Executive branch in the surveillance and detention of those suspected of terrorism or facilitating it — was essentially a duplicate of the anti-terrorist legislation he had drafted years earlier. "


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_o...


RE: What could happen.
By Noya on 7/6/2011 6:04:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Nope, sorry, but Obama could have let the Patriot Act expire but didn't. So it's idiots like YOU that put us on a "slippery slope". Ooooh this is fun, see how that works?


No, it's idiots like you and FIT on the right and the morons on the left that live in some fantasy world and actually believe your little votes mean anything...as if corporate money doesn't decide everything that happens in our country. Everything . Just look at the other blog post about ethanol.

Divide and conquer, keep all the common idiots hating each other and nothing ever changes to benefit them. What's happened in the last 40 years? The average person has gotten poorer and no new major infrastructure has taken place. This country peaked in the early 60's.


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: What could happen.
By FITCamaro on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: What could happen.
By nolisi on 7/6/2011 2:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No to me what makes this country less free is government mandates. Toilets, gas blends, fuel economy, air quality, emissions, what should be optional automotive equipment, health care, the list goes on.


Speaking of common sense, or lack thereof - I like how you feel that mandates which can really only make your life measureably better (every study I've seen on fuel economy shows that the better mileage you get, the more money you save on gas) makes you less free while warrantless wiretaps and detention without being accused of a crime don't make you less free (detentions of innocents without being formally accused of a crime HAVE occurred- YOU just haven't paid attention to them).

And don't tell me this is the first time this has ever been deemed necessary- the detainment of Japanese Americans did not help win WWII, nor did the Aliens and Seditions act aid in the conflict with France.

quote:
Just look at all the media attention that went around when the Obama Administration was going to release all this data on cases the Patriot Act was used and interrogation tapes. Both times they didn't.


The Bush Administration could have proved itself right by releasing the info- they never did. Why? Likely because they weren't. I don't recall any press releases by the Bush Administration saying "hey, we stopped this terrorist event from happening because we waterboarded this guy." This is the same Administration that declared Mission Accomplished in 2003 and lied about knowing for a fact that Hussein had WMD. If they were right, they would have released the info.

The likely answer is that this country is more conservative than you think, even on the Democratic side (preserving government secrecy is a conservative ideal). Remember that the next time you complain that this country is too Liberal. A country that is too liberal would not have allowed the Patriot Act to pass in the first place.


RE: What could happen.
By FITCamaro on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: What could happen.
By monitorjbl on 7/6/2011 4:08:14 PM , Rating: 2
Personal freedoms extend only as far as the greater public allow them to. If the majority of the public (as represented by our elected leaders) choose to say that overuse of gas by people exerting such a freedom is negatively affecting them, it's completely within the confines of the Constitution to pass a law restricting that freedom. And the overconsumption of gas by some absolutely does affect others, it drives the price of gas up in accordance with the laws of supply and demand.

You can't do anything you want just because you want to, that's not how 'freedoms' work. You are given freedoms by the public as a whole, as represented by elected leaders, not by your personal mandate. You can complain all you want about how little the leaders care about people like you and how broken the system is (and I would agree in a lot of cases), but even in principle your argument is flawed. The same thing would have happened if we had a true democracy; none of your 'freedoms' are inalienable if the country doesn't want them to be.


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/2011 4:27:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
it's completely within the confines of the Constitution


Please, no it is NOT. Regulating "overuse" of something is most certainly not a granted Federal power by the Constitution. In fact "overuse" is a completely subjective statement. What is overuse in your opinion might be normal or even necessary to someone else. Why do you assume that you're right?

quote:
You are given freedoms by the public as a whole, as represented by elected leaders, not by your personal mandate.


And here is where the fail train runs off the tracks. This sentence absolutely proves that you do NOT understand the Constitution or the men who wrote it. Our rights and freedoms do NOT extend from the Executive branch or our elected leaders. The Founders believed that we have "inalienable" rights, that they are "self-evident" and Universal. And the Governments job was to PROTECT, not grant, those freedoms and rights. We are not "given" freedoms!

In other words, the day to day activities of citizens were never meant to fall under the mandate of the Federal Government or it's regulations. It's patently absurd you think what gasoline one uses or how much of it falls under the Constitution. Without using the horribly misquoted and raped "Commerce Clause", can you back your claim up?


RE: What could happen.
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/2011 4:37:28 PM , Rating: 2
If you care to read this, you'll see why it's not Constitutional to regulate what fuel we can consume or how much.

http://federalistblog.us/2011/06/no_power_over_int...

Relevant quote:

Another example would be how Congress currently encourages the use of American made ethanol for gasoline blending by placing a $0.60 per gallon duty on all imported ethanol. While this is a proper exercise of regulating commerce, mandating by positive law that refineries must produce gasoline blended with ethanol is not because such laws are a police regulation that only the sovereign where such activities occur under can mandate.


RE: What could happen.
By monitorjbl on 7/7/2011 9:51:12 AM , Rating: 2
First, here is where you fail to understand the basics of any government: the people are the true power. If the Constitution promises to defend rights that are inconvenient, they can be revoked if enough people decide that its necessary (and they have been in the past). The rights that the founders decreed to be 'inalienable' are given to you by everyone around you, not by the universe. Further, they're not protected by the Constitution, they're protected by the government, which is an extension of the people. And just as 'overuse' is subjective, so are those inalienable rights.

Second, even if we do accept the wording of the Constitution to be absolute and the source of all law and order, the price of gasoline absolutely affects interstate trade. If you think the commerce clause is overused, you're probably right, but that doesn't mean it isn't valid here. Trucks and trains move just about everything between states and they run on gas, if you can believe that. You can't discount the clause that ruins your argument just because you don't like it.


RE: What could happen.
By Bad-Karma on 7/11/2011 3:41:13 AM , Rating: 2
Man are you off in left field.....

First off, the US Constitution lays out the framework, structure and running of the federal government. It doesn't talk about "Rights".

quote:
Further, they're not protected by the Constitution, they're protected by the government, which is an extension of the people. And just as 'overuse' is subjective, so are those inalienable rights.


Wrong again. It's the bill of rights that guarantees our freedoms. And since you don't seem to know anything about it, it starts off like this:
quote:
THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added : And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution


The Bill of rights was put into place to protect the people from the government.

quote:
The rights that the founders decreed to be 'inalienable' are given to you by everyone around you, not by the universe. Further, they're not protected by the Constitution, they're protected by the government,


Inalienable

adjective /in'ale?n?b?l/

Unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor

Now, part of the Declaration of Independence:
quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


The Federal Government was purposely designed so that should it abuse its powers and or take away the rights of its citizens, then it is to be "altered or abolished" and rebuilt.

Next time, before you go running you mouth about something you obviously have no knowledge of, just ask a veteran. We swore and oath to defend and protect the US Constitution, and most of us understand it very well.


RE: What could happen.
By nolisi on 7/6/2011 5:55:30 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
And who was responsible for the internment of Japanese Americans in WW2? The liberal hero FDR.


I fail to see the point you're making here. I'm saying it was flat out wrong no matter who did it and that action is similar to the Patriot Act. I'll take the fact that you're vehemently against anything remotely "liberal" that you understood and agree with my point that the Aliens and Sedition acts, Japanese internment, and Patriot Acts were wrong.

quote:
How am I less free from buying more gas? It's my money so I can spend it on whatever I choose. If I gain more enjoyment from a less fuel efficient car, that makes me more free than being forced into a car I find less enjoyable.


By focusing on this one small point, you're failing to see the overall comparative of impacts on personal freedoms. You originally compalined about fuel efficiency standards(amongst other things) as a larger reduction in personal freedom than warrantless wiretapping an chargless detention. I would suggest that the Provisions of the Partriot act that allow for chargless detention represent a larger impact on your freedom than EPA standards that help America reduce reliance on a diminishing and volatile (in terms of price and politics) energy source. But of course I would expect someone small minded to ignore the potential for being wrongly imprisoned without judicial review of the case to be a minor concern compared to the sports car you want to drive.


RE: What could happen.
By Netjak on 7/6/2011 5:51:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The world isn't as simple a place as it was nearly 250 years ago. As such sometimes things have to change. When trying to catch someone trying to blow up a building, you don't always have the luxury of being able to go through the process of getting a judge, presenting your case, and getting a warrant. Terrorists don't call the CIA before making their call to let them know what they'll be discussing


Please, don't even try.
US government, ie FBI was on tail of terrorists responsible for 9/11. Guess what, nobody beleived it' gonna happen. In other words, they have all the tools and information, but failed to actualy do something.


RE: What could happen.
By ekv on 7/7/2011 3:05:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
FBI was on tail of terrorists responsible for 9/11
That doesn't pass muster. FBI's charter is to operate w/i confines of USA, whereas CIA operates outside.

CIA was on trail of terrorists responsible for 9/11, however, were not allowed to communicate with the FBI. Seems the Clintons were p/o'd at the Flight 800 investigation and had the rules of communication, for wont of a better phrase, sharply curtailed. IIRC, Barbara Olson (a 9/11 victim) touched on this in "Hell to Pay".

No need for tin foil hat here, all the tools and information were in place for action, though by law the necessary coordination wasn't allowed (at that point in time).


RE: What could happen.
By Netjak on 7/7/2011 1:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That doesn't pass muster. FBI's charter is to operate w/i confines of USA, whereas CIA operates outside


Exactly my point. They were inside US and they are spoted by local FBI monts before planned attack. So there is no need 4 any law change, just to slash couple of iresponsible heads.


RE: What could happen.
By ekv on 7/7/2011 3:50:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They were inside US and they are spoted by local FBI
Simply being spotted inside the US is no cause for arrest and/or further surveillance. Unless. Unless the CIA would have been allowed to communicate the facts to the FBI that they were indeed persons of interest, and the reasons why. That law was later changed so that the CIA can now do just that, communicate with the FBI. Amazing, no?

My point is that the system works, no need for ad hominem remarks against "irresponsible heads" in the aforementioned agencies. It were (largely if not fully) the politicians that didn't like law enforcement, w/ reputed lesbian and muslim ties. Hint, hint.


RE: What could happen.
By Netjak on 7/7/2011 6:08:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Simply being spotted inside the US is no cause for arrest and/or further surveillance. Unless. Unless the CIA would have been allowed to communicate the facts to the FBI that they were indeed persons of interest, and the reasons why. That law was later changed so that the CIA can now do just that, communicate with the FBI. Amazing, no?


July 10, 2001: A Phoenix FBI agent sends a memorandum warning about Middle Eastern men taking flight lessons. He suspects bin Laden's followers and recommends a national program to check visas of suspicious flight-school students. The memo is sent to two FBI counter-terrorism offices, but no action is taken. [New York Times, 5/21/02] Vice President Cheney says in May 2002 that he opposes releasing this memo to congressional leaders or to the media and public

quote:
My point is that the system works, no need for ad hominem remarks against "irresponsible heads" in the aforementioned agencies. It were (largely if not fully) the politicians that didn't like law enforcement, w/ reputed lesbian and muslim ties. Hint, hint


FBI director at that time was informed about couple of AQ members, actual 9/11 attackers. Its just question of puting two's together.

lets go little furter, if u have little or no cooperation betwen agencies, how wiretaping and similar activities can help in that regard?


RE: What could happen.
By ekv on 7/7/2011 7:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Sept. 11 attacks were preventable, but the plot went undetected because of communications lapses between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., which failed to share intelligence related to two hijackers, a Congressional report to be released on Thursday says.

The report, by a joint committee of the House and Senate intelligence panels, found that for nearly two years before the attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency knew about the terror connections between the two men, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, who in 2000 moved to San Diego, frequenting Muslim circles that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had infiltrated.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/24/us/9-11-congress...

quote:
if u have little or no cooperation betwen agencies, how wiretaping and similar activities can help in that regard?
You appear to be asking how the CIA and FBI miscommunication can prevent 9/11 from being detected and prevented. Seeing that the 9/11 commission drew no such conclusion AND had vastly greater access to information than I, it'd be absurd for me to draw a conclusion for you. In other words, I'd be a poseur extraordinaire to even attempt an answer. Of course, I otherwise have an opinion.

Nevertheless, lack of communication is cited as a major failure point. Indeed, one of the main reasons the PATRIOT act was pushed so hard is that it addresses communication protocols tween the agencies. Checks and balances, perhaps even "friendly" competition amongst the agencies, must therefore be seen as an essential for detecting and preventing further occurrences of terrorism.

Then again, I'd be remiss if I did not point out Gorelick was appointed to the 9/11 commission by somebody -- she being nothing but a political hack. So perhaps that factored into why no conclusion was drawn?


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