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Judith Sargentini, Dutch Green MEP

Judith Sargentini, Dutch Green MEP

Europe should invest in developing its own highly secure cloud platform to keep European citizens’ data out of reach of snooping governments and criminals, and encourage adoption of open source technologies in the process, said Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini.

Sargentini presented a new proposal to the justice committee at European Parliament Wednesday that she said would help promote the use of services offered by European cloud service providers.

She argued that while head of the European digital agenda portfolio, Neelie Kroes, focuses much of her attention on the economic impact of cloud to the European Union in her proposal outlined a year ago, too little attention is placed on the security and privacy of European citizens – particularly in light of recent PRISM revelations.

“The Euro Parliament gives a clear signal to Kroes that its purely business approach to cloud computing is totally inadequate,” Sargentini said. “They see the business benefits of the cloud, but completely miss the implications for privacy and the enormous risks of economic and political espionage.”

When Kroes spoke out in July about revelations of widespread US intelligence gathering under the PRISM programme she suggested that US cloud providers would suffer economically – to the benefit of European cloud service providers – from the fallout. But beyond flirting with the idea that PRISM might lead to a re-think on bilateral relations between Europe and the US Kroes didn’t give any indication that forthcoming data protection legislation or the European Commission’s Cloud Computing Initiative would change as a result of the revelations.

As part of the new proposal put forward by Sargentini are measures that would prohibit European organisations transferring personal data of any kind to foreign governments, and ensure that only open source technologies are encouraged by the Commission.

The latter is in response to recent reports that in order to snoop so effectively the NSA was able to crack the vast majority of existing encryption technologies by manipulating security vendors and developers into leaving vulnerabilities in their codebases. Sargentini hopes that by making the code visible to all, the ability to insert security vulnerabilities would be impossible because of the community development aspect.

“It is important that we make it clear to the United States and accomplice governments in Europe that they have gone far too far. There is no excuse for listening to the entire online world. It is harmful for democracy and the rule of law,” Sargentini said.

“The interests of our businesses are affected by corporate espionage. The Euro Parliament wants clear limits on data gathering. This is an important first step. ”

Sargentini also called for the development of a European cloud specifically for European government and a number of other heavily regulated sectors like financial to store their sensitive data, parroting calls for a similar path by Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who also chairs the steering board of the new European Cloud Partnership.