Data traveling inside and outside of the U.S. is subject to scrutiny and surveillance by the NSA under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In fact, as we already know, sometimes even data inside of the U.S. is open to that kind of snooping. However, the practice is worrisome for leaders of the European Union, who suspect that the NSA’s surveillance tactics will hurt trade potential for companies selling services internationally, particularly to the United States, according to a new report from Reuters.
Comments made by the European Commission’s justice department director Paul Nemitz suggest that Americans might not want to use Internet services offered by European firms because the data isn’t as private as communications that originate and pass through networks in the United States. Reuters said e-mail providers in Europe could be particularly harmed, but it potentially applies to all services in which data is transferred across international networks to and from the U.S.
“The [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], which empowers the NSA to basically grab everything which comes from outside the United States, is a real trade barrier to a European digital company to provide services to Americans inside America,” Nemitz said, according to Reuters.
Nemitz is working to change the laws so that the NSA and other U.S. government agencies can only access data if it feels that the data would be beneficial to keeping the United States safer, and not simply out of the blue. The changes would be applied to an existing “Safe Harbour” agreement between the United States and the European Union, and would reflect the policy that the United States technically has in place for snooping on U.S. civilian data. As it stands, according to Reuters, the NSA can currently snoop on international data without any fear of national security concerns.
The goal of the changes, according to Nemitz, are to re-establish consumer trust in companies operating internationally, particularly among firms that frequently send data across seas, both to and from the United States.