EU demands answers over Microsoft's Patriot Act admission

Summary:Members of European parliamentary states have demanded changes to the way data is sent to the United States from Europe, amid conflicts between the European data laws and the USA PATRIOT Act.

Members of European parliamentary states have demanded changes to the way data is sent to the United States from Europe, amid conflicts between the European data laws and the USA PATRIOT Act.

Last week in London, at the Office 365 launch, Microsoft UK chief executive Gordon Frazer admitted to ZDNet that Microsoft could not provide guarantees that EU-based cloud data would not leave Europe under any circumstances, even under a Patriot Act request -- and neither can any other company.

While Microsoft came clean and admitted on the record that data was not protected under EU law, the focus for European legislators is now to bolster existing EU law, amid Microsoft's admission.

Cloud stored data in the EU is not protected against U.S. law, following Frazer's admission. This has led many of the members of the European Parliament to question whether the European data protection legislation brought out in 1995 has any effect whatsoever.

Sophie in 't Veld, Dutch member of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, brought up questions in the committee relating to whether the Patriot Act overrules the European data protection laws, and whether European data protection legislation can be adequately enforced.

One of the major considerations for the European members of parliament is to question the nullification of European data protection laws by the invoking of the Patriot Act.

Legal experts who spoke to IDG said that the EU data protection legislation is "hardly worth the paper it's written on".

The European commissioner charged with data protection said earlier this year that companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook "must adhere" to the strict EU privacy rules.

But as the Patriot Act overrules the European directive when data is on U.S. soil, regardless of whether the data is covered under the Safe Harbor framework, the "strict EU privacy rules" have no powers of protection.

Related content:

Also read ZDNet’s Patriot Act series:

Topics: Collaboration, Government, Government : UK, Government : US, Microsoft, Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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