EU Commissioner: PRISM Will Hurt US Businesses, Create EU Opportunities

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European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, today told a US business group that revelations about the United States government’s mass surveillance programmes would hurt US businesses, but create opportunities for European business. She also said the US should have been more transparent with the European Union and allow US companies to be more transparent, and risks undermining trust in digital services.

“[T]he US, as a trusted partner needs to be more transparent with Europeans about what has been going on; and it should allow American companies to be more transparent with their customers and potential customers,” Kroes said in prepared remarks at an American Chamber of Commerce conference in Brussels. “If the US government doesn’t choose this course, it will undermine trust in new digital services, with the risk that users will abandon them or never join the digital ranks.”

“Personally I don’t like the idea of data localisation – the idea that data has to be stored where it is gathered. Because then we would miss out on the huge opportunities of a borderless network,” she said.

“But let’s not be naïve. The PRISM debate will definitely increase calls for a European cloud, with a range of possible consequences for American companies. And PRISM also highlights a golden opportunity for people to make a huge privacy-focussed company. It highlights that being strong on privacy can be a competitive advantage, a great business move, and I welcome that.”

“Whatever the market developments might be,” Kroes added, “from a policy perspective, I want Europe to be seen as the safest corner of the internet and for entrepreneurs to be able to build businesses off the back of that.

The full speech is available here.

She made the remarks as governments gather today in Ireland for the start of the Group of Eight (G8) Summit. It also comes as the EU and US are poised to announce the official start of their bilateral trade agreement negotiations.

An running list of global news stories about the PRISM programme is being maintained by Intellectual Property Watch, available here.

William New may be reached at

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