Find the full opinion column in Les Echos of Thursday 24 October, co-signed by Philippe Latombe (MP for Vendée, LREM), Jean-Louis Bourlanges (MP for Hauts-de-Seine, MDM) and myself on the urgency of a European numerical sovereignty.
A part of the famous speech pronounced in Los Angeles by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, during his nomination at the Democratic Party Convention, on 15 July 1960, enlightens the current debate on the GDPR and the Cloud Act : “But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.”
When we remember that great moment of eloquence, we realise that it has a disturbing echo today: the digital area, as virtual as it is, is the New Frontier of the beginning of the 21st century. For the time being, it is foremost the Eldorado of some winners who tend to win the jackpot, in opposition to the general interest. Whereas the algorithms are mostly Americans and the material is Chinese, we look like to those Amerindian nations, stuck between an Eastern and a Western front. That should make us react, as we know the end of the story...
The European Parliament thought it avoided the danger with the adoption of the GDPR, whose objective is to protect private life of 500 million of Europeans while guaranteeing the confidentiality of their personal data in order to limit the impact of leaks or hacking. That was without taking into account the Cloud Act, a legislative knight surreptitiously slipped among more than two thousand pages in the 2018 Law on expenses voted without any debate in the American Congress, and signed by Donald Trump.
This Trojan horse allows American authorities to require users’ personal information from American service providers and digital operators without neither informing the latter nor going through courts even when those data are not stored on the American territory.
If it is not spying freedom, it looks like. The several protection barriers implemented in that text seem very weak for a digital world swallowed up by GAFA and other American-originated Cloud computing providers. The slides are numerous and scaring: industrial espionage, risks for national security, individual liberties and national sovereignty. Only that.
Therefore, how can we counter the Cloud Act? How to protect ourselves? And when we write “we”, we think about us, French people, who have to be the engine of this initiative, but also about us, Europeans, who have to forget our divergences on so many other topics, in order to adopt common protection measures. Because we have to play this game collectively, which should never become a war. Don’t forget that the Amerindian nations, and others, lost the war because they were unable to overcome their internal disputes! This confrontation should take place on a same level playing field: Europe counts for 25% of the global GDP, as much as the United States.
The European Union has to urgently apply the precautionary principle to data and incites enterprises to take back control on their data. This necessary control is by the way an opportunity for all the enterprises and, notably, for European starts-up innovating in the area of cybersecurity.
The digital sovereignty cannot be exercised at the European level only. This observation obliges us to make the inventory of other “European common goods” that Member States cannot take on alone at the national level anymore. Challenges triggered by globalisation in areas such as Defence and Security, climate protection, migratory flows management, food sovereignty, call for European answers. It shows the urgency of a Europe which prepares our future and protects us.
Jean Arthuis, Jean-Louis Bourlanges & Philippe Latombe | Translated from French