The case for European data independence

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Referring to the “most ignored scandal of the week”, Christian Stöcker, a tech columnist for the leading German weekly and online news portal, Der Spiegel, wrote in early September, 2018 that the intelligence agencies of the so-called Five Eyes Alliance (US, Canada, UK, Australia and New-Zealand) want to force the globally active tech giants, such as Facebook, Apple and others, to reveal all private data and communication of their users to these agencies. Despite repeated leaks highlighting the pervasiveness of snooping into the private information of citizens, Stöcker argues, state surveillance has become only more extensive and – also in light of the subdued public reactions – more brazen. The pressure on globally operating corporations to reveal data about users who do not reside in one of the Five Eyes Alliance countries illustrates this. In an age when the Donald Trump is effectively the chief of US intelligence, this ought to give German lawmakers a pause, Stöckert concludes.

As the confused reactions of European enterprises (especially SMEs) and users to the recent entry into force of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) demonstrate, data awareness still lags far behind when compared to the intense use – and in some cases abuses – of data by some digitally highly trained players in society, including rogue data corporations, such as Cambridge Analytica, and intelligence services whose actions in this realm are in practice often beyond accountability.

There are good reasons to insist on a vigorous application of the GDPR and on European data privacy in general. We do not know yet how US-based corporations will react to the pressure of their intelligence services. Even if we reasonably assume that they will be anything but keen in turning over data about their customers, it won’t always be a matter of choice.

Hence, especially when it comes to politically sensitive information, European politicians would be well-advised to do all in their power to ensure that data about their citizens remain on the continent, starting with whatever they themselves store about their voters and supporters, or wish to store in the future. We do not want information about voters’ policy preferences, ideological views, or other deep secrets in the hands of an administration whose erstwhile chief strategist is touring Europe with the goal of fomenting a continent-wide extremist/populist revolution.

There are very compelling moral grounds for keeping sensitive political data and information about voters in Europe, where strict data regulations offer better protections and security-induced administrative overreach is less pervasive. But there are also practical considerations that ought to steer us in the direction of European solutions to political data management.

Much of modern campaign technology comes from the US, which is often at the forefront of innovation in this realm, in large part also because of the enormous funds that flow into US campaigns. Innovative ideas in such a well-funded environment hold out the promise of huge payouts. At the same time, the logic of these innovations will often focus on the particular setting of US campaigns, with their two-party system, single-member districts, the use of primaries, parties with weak organizational structures and weak membership ties, etc. While Europe itself is extremely diverse in terms of its political systems, in many respects the US system is unique and, on the whole, European systems are less dissimilar from one another than they are from the American system.

Frankly, you deserve to work with a software and a development team that knows and understands European politics, and brings along the necessary cultural openness to integrate what’s specific to your country into its software and the underlying research models, algorithms.

The benefit of a solution like WinWith.Me – in addition to its previously described effectiveness in the realization of political goals – is that it is fully GDPR compliant and does not store any data in any jurisdiction outside the EU, unless a non-EU client specifically so requests with respect to its own citizens or residents.

On the one hand, this makes it easier for the politician to relax, they won’t have to agonize where data about their voters will end up. The operators of WinWith.Me are registered in the EU, they are subject to the same legal authority as their European clients. At the same time, voters, too, can rest more easy entrusting their data to a politician whose can sincerely pledge to not let their data leave the European Union.

This is small step for the EU cohesion and integration, but a major step for the privacy rights of EU citizens.

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