Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series: A summary of four extensively detailed posts, of how the Act can access data held outside the United States.


This executive summary recaps a series of posts and a year's worth of research on how the USA PATRIOT ACT impacts cross-border clouds, and considers whether data is safe from the risk of interception or unwarranted searches by U.S. authorities; even European protected data.

Although this is a U.S.-oriented site and I am a British citizen, the issues I surface here affect all readers, whether living and working inside or outside the United States.

In short:

U.S. law enforcement could use the USA PATRIOT Act on a U.S.-based organisation -- like Microsoft, Google, Intel or Amazon, for example -- to force its local subsidiary companies across the world into handing over user data to U.S. authorities.

EU data once may have 'had to stay in Europe', but this is on the most part untrue. The Safe Harbor framework, designed to protect EU data in the United States, protects merely the transfer of data from Europe to U.S. soil. But as soon as it arrived on U.S. soil, Safe Harbor can be superseded by America's counter-terrorism law.

U.S. corporations survive by having subsidiary or smaller companies in foreign locations, to communicate and collaborate with their clients on the ground in their locale. These subsidiary companies are wholly owned and controlled by their U.S. parent. If a U.S. parent company receives a request from the U.S. government to inspect data held by a subsidiary company in a foreign location, the subsidiary would therefore have no choice but to hand over the data to their U.S.-based parent.

As a result, universities, businesses and organisations which hold vast quantities of student and citizen data in the European cloud, are not protected against the U.S. counter-terrorism laws, which arguably infringe the freedoms and liberties of non-U.S. citizens.

No company or organisation can wholly guarantee that data in European datacenters will under no circumstances leave European soil. Until a company comes forward and unequivocally states otherwise, then this series of posts stands true.

The 'cloud' is an abstract concept to newcomers: Access is granted from any device anywhere in the world. It stores files under your name, from photos to video and work documents. But in reality, these files are on a server in a datacenter -- on sovereign territory, somewhere, where a government's law applies.

Though the notion of 'privacy' in itself has become diluted with social networking settings and the loss or theft of mobile devices, privacy in itself relates directly back to the individual. As previously discussed, there is no such thing as "I have nothing to hide".

More often than not, this will be the United States; even if you live elsewhere in the world. The vast majority of ordinary citizens will think nothing of this conundrum. They should start paying attention along with the businesses that control vast quantities of citizen data.

Read the report:

Part 1: USA PATRIOT Act and the controversy of Canada The controversy of Canada, cloud computing and an act of law which holds America's closest neighbor to data protection ransom.

Part 2: Safe Harbor: Why EU data needs 'protecting' from US law An overview of the Safe Harbour principles, which allow data to flow freely between Europe and the US; but not without caution.

Part 3: Case study: How the USA PATRIOT Act can be used to access EU data A case study examining how European universities, and organisations even further afield, are risking their students' and customers security by outsourcing to the cloud.

Part 4: USA PATRIOT Act: The myth of a secure European cloud Concluding thoughts of the consequences of the USA PATRIOT Act on EU cloud data. And it's not good news.

Warm regards and personal thanks to my colleague and friend Jon Honeyball of PC Pro, who pointed me in the right direction over a year ago.

Topics: Government US, Government, Government UK

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  • The most un-patriotic law ever passed.

    The "Patriot" Act was the most un-patriotic law ever passed. This nation was founded on the concept of a less powerful government leaving private citizens alone to live their lives. The "Patriot" Act takes away our most basic civil rights and gives our government unchecked powers similar to the worst civil rights offenders in the world. The a-holes in Congress who created and supported that law will go down in history as the idiots who took the first major steps in creating a future totalitarian regime and destroyed the hard-earned freedom our nation once enjoyed.
    • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

      @BillDem... why do we have to wait until history is written. Universities, businesses and organizations should be educating the public HOW this law works and how it is violating the constitution. Why haven't the courts objected? I remember one judge did object when Bush first promoted it... But the info and education needs to get out. We have too many govt thugs on MSM telling their little tales of glory how this protects americans... that needs to stop or cross-examined!
      • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series


        The main reason the courts haven't objected is that a lot of them were packed with conservative judges by Bush, who happen to LOVE these kind of unconstitutional things when they are done to 'protect the United States'.
    • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

      Exactly! But by the time we have a totalitarian regime, it won't matter that we once were a republic, because the government-run schools will continue to teach the children what a great government we have and how good it is of our leaders to let us have our "freedom."
      sissy sue
  • This law, does indeed, need to go. I think its time to resolidify our..

    rights and freedoms.

    I personally run all my personal stuff locally, no cloud hosted stuff here, websites, email, file storage.... they will have to ask me for it and they will have a tough time with that.

    Linkedin and gmail are my only two weaknesses and those have crap i dont care about.
  • So why all the cloud enthusiasm?

    It appears that in the USA, the general opinion being put out by consultants and tech pundits is that all companies MUST be looking to convert their main apps to the cloud, or else they'll never be able to compete in today's world. And Americans seem to be buying it. In Europe its a different matter - a great many businesses won't entertain the cloud because it is both insecure and inflexible - how do you get your data and code off, and how do you transfer it to a fresh platform if your cloud provider fails?
  • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

    People don't object to the Patriot Act for fear of being grabbed off the street, shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, and never be heard from again.
    • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

      @anothercanuck Well I'm stuffed then. :)
  • Question

    what about european or any other company that has a subsidiary in the US? Do they as well fall under the patriot act?
  • Once upon a time

    I thought the Patriot Act was useful and necessary. I no longer think that. It is a huge infringement on our 4th Amendment rights. I have been protesting to my representatives. This is not a partisan thing. Both parties have voted to continue this bill.

    It is time to end this bill. The police can bust down your door and take you in for "suspicion" and not need a warrant. We need our due process back. I have no problems with them investigating the bad guys as long as they don't trample on my personal rights afforded in our constitution. The FBI, CIA, homeland security, and other Federal agencies have unprecedented power.

    The TSAs basically treat us as criminals in our own country. Since when can they do these kind of inspections in airports, train depots, etc. ? Instead of doing what the Israelis are doing, profiling which works great, we instead have to be politically correct and examine everyone and assume everyone is dangerous.

    Everyone get on your representatives. Our founding fathers knew that concentrated power corrupts absolutely. If we allow this to go on our rights will further deteriorate. Both parties are propagating this as a need for our agencies to fight the war on terror but they need to follow the law in conducting their investigations no matter if it does slow them down.
  • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

    Oh Boo Hoo. The Patriot Act is necessary. You all seem to have a cartoon version of what the Constitution is all about and the rights it gives us.
    Oh...My rights are rights are trampled.
    • You're trampled

      @mutley457@... You're obviously NOT an American, where we have the FREEDOM NOT TO HAVE security of having the government TELL US WHAT TO DO.
      "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."
      Benjamin Franklin
      "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
      Abraham Lincoln
      • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

        @janitorman I usually don't get into political discussions on forums, but, I just have to laugh at your post. I often see liberals mocking conservatives for saying that they are more American. However, here you are, screaming (as implied by the all caps) at this guy for not adhering to your interpretation of the law.
        This coupled with so many liberal laws pushed through under the assumption of a "living document" (see gay marriage, health care, assorted taxes, etc.) makes your statment all the more hilarious. All in all, your hypocritical post is ended so nicely by an overused quote from another dead guy. Good job, its been a long night and I needed that laugh.
      • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

        Keep on quoting those "dead guys!" They spoke the truth.
        sissy sue
  • RE: Summary: ZDNet's USA PATRIOT Act series

    "Patriot" ??? What a monstrous case of SPIN DOCTORING! Based on experience with the TSA and other government organizations, it should have been titled "The American GESTAPO Act!"
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