Neil Cameron wrote recently about two different aspects of accessibility of data in an article called Update on US land grab for foreign emails. One is the demands made by the courts and authorities of one country (usually the US) in respect of data which lies outside their jurisdiction. The other is the so-called right to be forgotten. I am slow to come to it because I spent much of last week at the Sedona Conference Cross-Border Programme on the same and related subjects. They are simultaneously important and intractable.
As its title implies, the article leads on claims made by the US Government for emails held on Microsoft’s servers in Dublin. Privacy campaigners may claim this subject as their own, but it has much wider commercial implications than privacy. One of the subjects which comes up in the New York Times article to which Neil Cameron refers is the question whether Germany will allow its data to sit on Microsoft’s servers anywhere. This is sub-set of a wider question about the business lost by all US cloud providers as customers world-wide decide against keeping data within reach of US subpoenas as well as their spies (though I think you can take it that the spies have a wider range of investigatory tools at their disposal than the courts).
Neil Cameron was recently invited to give evidence to the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee F on the so-called “right to be forgotten” – he is no enthusiast for the unrealistic posturing of EU courts and politicians whose idealistic vision is uncluttered by any commercial or practical good sense. The second part of his article covers this separate but related topic.
His conclusion that we need “a new kind of global regulatory framework… for controlling electronic commercial and criminal activity on some kind of rational and universally agreeable basis” is obviously right. Before we can aspire to this at a diplomatic level, however, we first need a consensus at a state level within each relevant part of the globe. US spies have interests which do not align with those whose purpose is commercial comity; Chinese trade officials conflict with colleagues who guard Chinese “state secrets; EU privacy campaigners have legitimate fears about the use being made of private data by commercial organisations who themselves say that their expansion (and with it their contribution to the economy) depends on cross-border freedom of information as well as of goods and services.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for a global regulatory framework.