Editorial: Who owns the contents of the clouds?


Transatlantic disagreements about online privacy have been rumbling for any number of years. But the latest ructions – over the US government’s right to snoop on European citizens’ data – are the most concerning yet.

Put simply, the recently re-renewed Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Amendments Act grants Washington access to the data of any non-American that is being held in an internet “cloud” by a US company (such as Google or Facebook). No warrant is needed.

A government wielding such powers over its own people would be bad enough. For the law to transcend national boundaries is an outright breach of sovereignty. Thus far, however, the EU has done little to tackle the egregious implications. That must change. Meanwhile, it is for Europeans to consider their options. If negotiation cannot make the point in Washington, perhaps commercial interest can.