EU Flexing Its Privacy Muscles Right Up Until Brexit -- Thank Goodness

Oh, the sheer irony of it. You couldn't even make it up. Back when he was a back-bench MP, David Davis opposed the so-called Snoopers Charter, which his Government was pushing through on the front benches. To him and many others, it seemed that this was a very blunt instrument, forcing ISPs to keep Internet and phone logs for a year just in case there was a nugget of information that might apprehend a terrorist. 

Little did he know that the case would be seriously taken up the EU and subsequently lead to an embarrassing defeat for the Government. The irony? He's actually now the so-called Minister of Brexit. It turns out that the guy who complained for many years about the influence of Brussels on London lawmaking has been behind its most embarrassing climb down, at the hands of EU judges. Privacy campaigners are obviously delighted. As for Davis, he must surely be having a wry chuckle to himself as he crafts a response that outlines how this kind of interference is the very reason the country must rid itself of the yoke of EU lawmakers. 

Then we have the rather nastier case of Facebook and WhatsApp. It's hard to imagine that the EU has ever had to pass judgement on a more open-and-shut case. Bear in mind that these are the people who had to decide if Apple paying less than 1% in corporation tax and whether Google promoting its own material ahead of rivals was worthy of punitive action. These guys are used to dealing with slam-dunk cases, and Facebook going back on its word and pooling data between WhatsApp and Facebook is the equivalent of Kojak finding a crazed murderer with a knife in their hand covered in the victim's blood.

It's hard to come to any other conclusion than that Facebook always knew this would be the case and did the math. According to reports today, convention would suggest that the almost certain fine will be in the hundreds of millions of Euros, but will represent just 1% or less of Facebook's global turnover. You can almost see the Facebook lawyers doing the computation. What is WhatsApp data worth to us? More than a few hundred million Euros? Great -- let's do it and then look surprised when we are found out. Then we'll throw money at it and hope it goes away until we have to pay up.

My own question here is whether Facebook will have made more out of the data in the several years it will take before they pay a fine than the eventual sum levied against them by the EU. Will the rogue decision have paid for itself in just a handful of years, let alone the decades that follow?

What today's two cases do show is that although the UK is being frozen out of some meetings and decision-making in the EU, mainland Europe is most certainly not holding back in enforcing its rules on the UK while it still can. Facebook will now argue its case and the episode will play out over several years. The UK Government's response is going to be priceless, of course. Now they have to decide whether David Davis references it in any speeches in the future, to which the audience will certainly have to fall about in the aisles laughing. Or do they get the PM to stand up and tell the EU to mind its own business and that it has the right to insist ISPs spy on their users on behalf of the state?

Imagine if Trump's first action was to insist that every citizen's email and phone calls should be logged for the security services to peruse at leisure? Well that's what Theresa May wants to do in the UK, and that is why there will be few running to lend support as, ironically, a campaign initiated by her now Brexit Minister sees her publicly embarrassed. 

The EU will keep flexing its privacy muscles, and there are many in the UK who will be glad for what they see as protection from London and a welcome will to deal with American tech companies who pay no heed to our laws nor their own promises.

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