Europe's Kroes missile takes aim at PRISM paranoia

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan July 3, 2013
Summary:
Never waste a good crisis! Definitely a sound political maxim and probably the reason why Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Agenda, has been rattling her cloudy sabre again.

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Never waste a good crisis!

Definitely a sound political maxim and probably the reason why Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Agenda, has been rattling her cloudy sabre again.

Kroes is the leading advocate of the supposed need for Brussels to produce a pan-European Cloud Computing Strategy to take precedence over the national efforts of countries such as the UK.

Her ambitions have been criticised both within Europe and across the Pond where US cloud services providers have eyed the Commission's plans with scepticism and suspicion.

Kroes has already tapped into paranoia around the PRISM spying scandal to suggest it strengthens the case for a pan-European strategy.

Today she elaborated on that theme. Speaking after a meeting of the European Cloud Partnership, Kroes declared:

"We need trust. In some cases, of course, it may be legitimate for authorities to access, to some degree, information held online; child protection and terrorism are good examples. Such access must be based on transparent rule of law, and is the exception to the rule.

"If businesses or governments think they might be spied on, they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out."

She added:

"Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally, and providers will miss out on a great opportunity."

And not just any old providers. Oh no, it's Uncle Sam's finest that will be the losers, according to the Commissioner - and now she really warms to her PRISM theme:

"If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government or their assurances, then maybe they won't trust US cloud providers either. That is my guess. And if I am right then there are multi-billion euro consequences for American companies."

Declaring - with seemingly no irony - that she does not have an agenda, Kroes twisted the knife one last time, suggesting to the US cloud industry that it had good reason to be worried.

"If I were an American cloud provider, I would be quite frustrated with my government right now.

"Concerns about cloud security can easily push European policy makers into putting security guarantees ahead of open markets; with consequences for American companies.

"The cloud has a lot of potential. But potential doesn’t count for much in an atmosphere of distrust. European cloud users and American cloud providers and policy makers need to think carefully about that."

Happy 4th of July, US cloud industry! Love from Europe!

Verdict

There are of course legitimate concerns to be aired around PRISM - both in Europe and the US.

But Commissioner Kroes' agenda with this jingoistic fear-mongering is sadly all too transparent despite her protestations to the contrary.

If Brussels can't make the case for needing a pan-European Cloud Computing strategy without pandering to and exploiting Big Brother paranoia, then that says more about how well the Commission has thought this through than it does about anything else.

I wasn't impressed by Kroes' cloud plans before; even less so now.