Let’s face it, most of us like to keep our private stuff private, right?
While we’ve told you in the past how to protect your privacy at a home network level, there’s a fight going on right now that could have a massive effect on your privacy, and there’s very little you can do about it on an individual level – but as ever, knowledge is power.
The US-EU Privacy Shield launched in 2016 as a replacement for previous ‘safe harbor’ legislation, which was declared invalid back in 2015.
The idea was that your data would be protected under appropriate laws, even if it was transferred from the US to Europe, or vice versa.
It’s been an unhappy alliance from the outset, with concerns on both sides about the amount of time that data could be stored by each continent, and just how effective it would be at protecting citizens.
In 2017, once-impeached President Donald Trump signed an executive order that made clear that US Privacy rules would not apply to non-US citizens.
After several years of squabbling, the European Court of Justice ruled in July 2020 that Privacy Shield was invalid and did not offer suitable protection for EU citizens.
So what happens now?
Before we get too embroiled, it’s worth pointing out for UK readers that Brexit has muddied the waters further still on this matter, and no firm decisions have been made between the US, EU and UK yet – leaving a Limey Limbo for the next few months.
The upshot is the same, wherever you are, however. There is currently nothing in place to ensure the bulk privacy of data travelling between the US and the EU – and that means an awful lot of porn sites, dating sites, cam sites and message boards.
That means that, for right now, the onus is on all of us to protect ourselves. Use the tips in our privacy guide, including at the very least a VPN, pointed at somewhere other than the US (don’t worry, you’ll still be able to access US-based sites).
Equally, the identity of adult performers, camgirls, strippers and sex workers is vulnerable – not because either side is actively looking to gather this data – but because they could, if they wanted to, and there’s nothing in place to stop it.
On August 10, the two sides sat down again to thrash out the third iteration of Privacy Shield, in the hope of rescuing the combined interests of nearly 800 million citizens.
The problem is, with all the best intentions, the EU (particularly) remains deeply unhappy with the amount – and type – of surveillance being carried out by the US, and it seems unlikely that anything will change under the current regime.
With the US 2020 election months away, Brexit shortly after that and an EU pushing ever harder to show its muscles, it seems unlikely that anyone is about to back down.
Let’s be clear – you’re not automatically going to get snooped on if you decide to look at an adult site based on the other side of the Atlantic from you.
The important thing is that right now, your rights are in your hands and there’s no overarching law that allows you the discretion to go about your business with confidence. And as we said at the start, there’s not a lot you can do about it alone, but at least now you know.