American tech giants face fight in Europe

American tech giants face fight in Europe

A recent European newspaper headline read, “Silicon Valley's battle over encryption is heading to Europe”. Some people say this all started with the FBI's demands that Apple help unlock an iPhone that was used by the terrorists killers in California, these demands that opened a heated debate about privacy. After recent attacks in Brussels and before that the Paris slaughter a few governments across the EU are increasingly pushing and contemplating legislating for greater access to people's digital footprints. French lawmakers were expected to debate proposals to toughen laws which would give intelligence services greater power to access everyone's personal data.

This battle looks like it is going to pit Europe's fears about the serious potential for further attacks against the concerns of the tech giants, Apple, Google and Facebook about the weakening of their encryptions which could allow back doors to people's individual data which the tech giants state could be misused by law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies of unfriendly countries. The problem the American companies have is that the recent attacks have pushed many European citizens to actually favor giving greater powers to law enforcement over personal privacy. Of course they have opponents who say these new powers must not undermine Europe's tough data protection rules that have enshrined privacy on a par with rights like freedom of expression.

The balance between national security and privacy has put major EU countries on opposite sides of the debate, to the point where Germany and the Netherlands have actually caustically dismissed encryption wars being considered by France and Britain. One leading pundit has stated that “fundamental rights are just that, fundamental.” He went on to state that there should be exceptions for national security reasons but declined to state what these exceptions should look like. He also added that governments have to be pragmatic, a comment that had him seriously ridiculed by people who said that kind of pragmatism costs innocent lives.

But there is a new series of proposals across Europe that if approved by the EU would give national intelligence agencies renewed powers to compel the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook to hand over encryption information. In Britain, lawmakers are actually in the process of completing legislation that could legally force tech giants to not only bypass encryption protections but to hand them over in the name of national security. The law which has been branded, snoopers charter, by its opponents would compel companies to aid the country's law enforcement agencies by hacking people smart phones and computers along with other powers.

The French version of this very same law which will give their police and security agencies very similar powers has penalties of up to five years jail for tech company executives and fines of up to $390,000 if they refuse or if a delay handing over the information they are asked for, the biggest problem with this legislation is the part about the delay of handing over the information, and that part is down to spark a lot of legal challenges. At the moment the French law looks like it will fail to pass into law until the next election, France's current left-wing government do not seem to like the law even though they proposed it, and are now being accused by the right wing of putting up the legislation only to keep their opposition quiet but never had any intention to pass the law. Based on some results in from other elections the right wing will most likely have a much bigger say of what laws passed after the next elections which are due before the end of this year.

CEOs of the big tech companies have all recently discovered the value of privacy. On Tuesday, 30 April 2019, Mark Zuckerberg, announced his future plans to make Facebook a "privacy-focused social platform". This was followed by Google's Sundar Pichai demand that “privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world.” Meanwhile, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, has described the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as "net-positive", while Apple had already positioned itself as the champion of privacy.  Paragraph source: