Europe's "Shengen Cloud Network" proposal provokes the US to threaten retaliation
The idea, of course, is that any such new network would prevent at least some of the intra-European voice and data traffic presently and routinely routed via US "middleman" networks, from being snooped-on by the NSA and its shadowy ilk.
The fact that such a proposal has has rattled various US agencies is evident in the bellicose warnings by the USTR that any such move on the part of the EU and its partners would be in breach of extant trade laws and could precipitate a trade war and other, as yet unspecified, retaliatory actions.
In a statement in its latest annual report, the USTR says the proposal to build an integrated Europe-wide comms network that does not involve contact with US networks is "draconian" and will cause severe financial problems to US technology companies if the initiative progresses.
The statement reads, "Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a 'Schengen Cloud' by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them."
Since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the surveillance routinely mounted on overseas allies by US spy agencies, many EU states, led by a very angry Germany and France, have been considering how best to counter this evident threat to their electronic security. The answer seems to be to construct a European network that will make it much harder for the NSA et al. just to scoop up any and all communications it likes and then to do whatever it will with them.
In the first instance the German government has proposed that the country's incumbent telco, Deutsche Telekom, (in which the government retains a 28 per cent holding) should cease passing any European comms data over US middlemen networks.
This has really stung the USTR and the body is complaining that any such move would "give European companies an unfair advantage over their US counterparts." It adds, "Any mandatory intra-EU routing may raise questions with respect to compliance with the EU's trade obligations with respect to internet-enabled services. Accordingly, USTR will be carefully monitoring the development of any such proposals."
US President Teddy Roosevelt's maxim was "Speak softly and carry a big stick". But that was more then a century ago and, my, how times have changed. Today's adage is: "Admit nothing and lie, lie and lie again. Then, if caught out and when you can't obfuscate any more, blame and then shoot the messenger, jail his friends and family, stamp, shout and jump about and threaten overwhelming bloody retaliation."
And it's not just Europe that is subject to the wrath of the USTR. Up north over the Friendship Bridge, the Canadian authorities are also getting a lick of the cat. (The lucky devils. Some of us have to pay good money for that. Ed.).
The US Trade Representative is taking the Canadian federal government to task for proposing to build a nationwide unified email system permitting all data to be stored in Canada and not the US. This meant that US companies were excluded from the tender for offers to build the network. Why? Because they are regarded as witting or unwitting agents of a much larger and unaccoutable set of powers. The contract for the work was duly won by Bell Canada .
The USTR Report says, “In today’s information-based economy, particularly where a broad range of services are moving to “cloud” based delivery where US firms are market leaders, this law hinders US exports of a wide array of products and services." Well", as the splendid Mandy- Rice Davis once remarked in a British court at the height of a British establishment scandal, "He would say that, wouldn't he?"
Incidentally, 90 per cent of Canadian Internet traffic is currently routed via the US. No wonder the Canadian government has concerns.
The US attitude is analogous to a pickpocket, who, having been caught bang-to-rights with his sticky fingers deep within the innermost recesses of your strides and latched firmly around your wallet, later complains in court that it is unfair for the abused individual to protect said wallet by putting it in a zippered pocket in a buttoned jacket alongside a hair-trigger mousetrap and an underfed ferret.
By the way, the Schengen Agreement, first mooted back in 1985 has been implemented across many of the member states of the European Union (EU) since 1995. Currently there are 25 signatories (including some countries that are not part of the EU) and a couple of refuseniks, of which the UK is one. Our traffic is still spied on by our very own GCHQ as well as by the NSA.
In essence the Schengen Agreement (so-called because it was signed in Schengen, Luxembourg) allows for the free movement in and across any member state of an individual (whether an EU citizen or not) having once, legally, passed into the EU by entering across the frontier of a Schengen signatory country. In other words, individuals that are allowed to enter at any crossing point of any Schengen member country are thereafter free to move across the borders of other member states without having to submit to any further border checks.
Stay up to date with the latest industry developments: sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox – including our daily news briefing and weekly wrap.