Is Big Brother watching us?

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Cloud security and internet privacy are hot topics this summer. After the ‘Obama is watching us’ disclosures, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her deepest concerns on ARD television. Merkel is favoring stricter legislation at EU level to better safeguard the personal data of citizens.

Merkel reacted to the allegations of the USA and Great Britain using cloud data of German citizens for non-authorized purposes. She pleads for an European approach, since currently regulations still vary from country to country. Merkel wants social networking sites such as Facebook and search giants as Google to comply to the same privacy rules applicable in all EU member states. She called not only for clear and common European data protection standards but also insisted that Internet companies should inform European authorities fully about whom they have given data to.

Last month, US officials confirmed the existence of an electronic monitoring programme, known as Prism code. Former NSA computer scientist Edward Snowden exposed that several Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Skype provide the NSA with user data in Europe and elsewhere. This Big Brother ‘spying scandal’ has shocked the world and has led to fierce debates on cyber trust and privacy. It also puts pressure on the whole transatlantic relationship between the EU and the US.

Vice-President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, stated earlier at a meeting of the European Cloud Partnership Board that data security is a “gift to our economy” and that “we need trust”. Kroes warned that “if businesses or governments think they might be spied on, they will have less reason to trust the cloud and it will be the cloud providers who ultimately miss out”. The cloud has enormous potential but “potential does not count for much in an atmosphere of distrust”. Business should take advantage providing services with better privacy protection and contribute from their side to restoring the shattered trust, which is essential for growth of the digital economy in the future.

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