From the Ash Cloud to Data Cloud: Europe blocked

The ash cloud and data cloud have had much in common: both have had global implications and may have caused Europe falling outside a major technological revolution. There is a strong collision between two conflicting normative models: the European model and the American model about privacy. For an American, it is not a "fundamental right" recognized by the Constitution.

The long way between US and Europe in privacy

For a European, privacy is something much broader: the right to protection of personal data and is indeed protected as a “fundamental right”.
This causes in the United States, most of companies and administrations already in “the cloud” while only a few in Europe. So some say that Europe could be left out of this technological revolution.
Europeans, Should we give up part of our Bill of Rights to be more competitive?
Not only an ash cloud have threated European economy, technological cloud hanging over our own legal system to protect and our conception of individual rights.

May data cloud be blocking Europe?

What happened in April 2010 with the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland so negatively affected the economy in Europe with almost complete closure of its airspace, it becomed to me the perfect metaphor for what is happening with its counterpart, the data cloud in our old continent.

eyjafjallajocc88kull_volcanic_ash_17_april_2010b

And the fact is that it is a good metaphor not only for sharing the name “cloud” but also for two other reasons:

  1. Both clouds have global implications, and may not clearly delimited countries or regions involved in its expansion (in fact, not only Europe but also the United States and other states are affected indirectly by the European limitations) and, more importantly,
  2. Both phenomena are causing Europe falling outside a major technological revolution.

One privacy, two perspectives

Let me explain about this last point:

In the last years, it became clear a hard collision between two conflicting normative models: the European model and the American model. This shock is specially focused on the so different conceptions that Europeans and Americans have about the “privacy”.

For an American, the right to privacy is literally “the right to be let alone”, ie, “the right to be alone” or, more freely, “the right to be left alone”. From whom? So from everyone, but especially from the government. It should also be said that it is not a “fundamental right” recognized by the Constitution, unlike, for example, freedom of expression contained in his famous “First Amendment”. This right, therefore, was created and shaped by assuming American jurisprudence, in practice, very similar protection of our right to privacy (ie, home inviolability, secrecy of communications and privacy protection).

Mapa de privacidad (c) Gianluca D'Angelo SecureCloud 2010

Privacy Map (c) Gianluca D’Antonio SecureCloud 2010

On the contrary, for a European, privacy is something quite different. Since our legislation recognizes and protects all these aspects by the right to privacy or “intimidad” in spanish, new privacy has emerged as an area of ​​more extensive protection. This new area covers all data that any entity has about a citizen, and not just the strictly private ones. In Europe, therefore, the right to privacy is a law that protects individuals with regard to the processing of their data by third parties, or, put another way, the right to personal data protection.

An european “fundamental right”

Also unlike the United States, in Europe the right to privacy is protected as a “fundamental right”, collected both in Article 18.4 of our Spanish Constitution of 1978 and Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as well as developed both by the Data Protection Act and by the European Directive 95/46/EC.

This conceptual and legal difference caused in part that in the United States, a big percentage of companies and administrations are already “in the cloud” while only a small one in Europe. Some have even predict that Europe could be left out of this technological revolution and, consequently, our business will suffer a competitive disadvantage relative to the rest of the world with less restrictive legislation.

The question is: Are we Europeans give up part of our Bill of Rights to be more competitive? And, if so, what’s next? Dismantle a portion of our social and labor rights to return to days of 12 or 14 of working hours or reducing wages to compete with emerging countries? (A good friend of mine predicted it a few years ago).

Pricing the future?

Certainly not only an ash cloud has threated European economy, but technological cloud hovering over it as much about our own legal system to protect and our conception of individual rights that has cost us so many centuries to achieve. The difference is that the first has been dissipated but the main effects of the latter are still to come.

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