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Belgium Tries to Fine Yahoo for Protecting US User Privacy 267

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the don't-gimme-any-of-that-juris-my-diction-crap dept.
Techdirt is reporting that Belgium is trying to extract fines from Yahoo for not producing user data that was recently demanded of the US company. Instead of following normal diplomatic channels Belgian officials apparently made the data demands directly to Yahoo's US headquarters and then took the company to criminal court, where a judge issued the fine. "The implications of this ruling are profound and far-reaching. Following the court's logic would subject user data associated with any service generally available online to the jurisdiction of all countries. It would also subject all companies that offer services generally available on the global Internet to the laws of all jurisdictions, potentially exposing individual employees to a variety of criminal sanctions."
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Belgium Tries to Fine Yahoo for Protecting US User Privacy

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  • by dysmey (1165035) * on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:09PM (#28732711)

    If it reaches the point where Belgium, which is notorious for its disruptive behavior on the Internet, tries to extract money out of Yahoo! on the grounds of tortuous logic, as its press wing has tried to extort money out of Google, then maybe it is now time to dissolve the Belgian State and distribute its three regions between the Netherlands (Flanders), France (Wallonia) and Germany (Eupen). These groups do not get along, anyway; and the only reason there is still a Belgium is that nobody knows what to do with the capital, Brussels, when the country does break up.

    • What about the beer?
      Won't anyone think of the beer?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by arnodf (1310501)
        Luckily we have something called mobile beer where the brewers come to your house and brew the beer for you with some kind of 'breweryized' caravan. So: country or not, there will always be beer!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by McNihil (612243)

        don't forget the Belgian chocolates for the women too. Though I am 99.9999% sure that any woman reading slashdot would be a beer aficionado.

      • And Waffles! mmmm... beer and waffles, little squares filled with delicious beer.

      • by Bakkster (1529253)
        We'll cut their fiber. You don't need fiber to brew beer!
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There is a wider variety of higher quality beer brewed in the United States than any other country. You just have to buy beer somewhere other than Big-Box-Mart. Buy from a micro-brewery. I wish people would stop this lie that the best beer comes from Europe, when it no longer does. Our microbreweries are as wonderful as our macrobreweries suck -- a whole lot. DFH ftw.

        • by socrplayr813 (1372733) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:19PM (#28733595)

          There is a wider variety of higher quality beer brewed in the United States than any other country. You just have to buy beer somewhere other than Big-Box-Mart. Buy from a micro-brewery. I wish people would stop this lie that the best beer comes from Europe, when it no longer does. Our microbreweries are as wonderful as our macrobreweries suck -- a whole lot. DFH ftw.

          I'm not a big fan of generalizations like this, but parent is right that there are some truly spectacular microbrews in the US. Worth pointing out, even if it is a bit off topic.

        • I'm not sure it's a wider variety than other countries; a staggering number are brewed in Belgium. The real problem with beer in the USA is that it seems very unusual to be able to get good beer more than a few miles from where it is brewed, while in Europe you can generally get decent beers brought in from all over the continent.
        • I've tried several and still prefer Belgian beer... I haven't been able to stand anything made in the US outside a single norwegian brewery in SF bay area, but then again that's sort of an import :)

      • That's definitely a huge concern. For my money Belgium makes the best beer in the world. Not to say that there's no bad beer there, or that there aren't excellent beers from other places, but as taken as a whole, Belgian beer is better than than any competition.

        • by mobby_6kl (668092)

          Yeah, but they're making the beer out of fucking strawberries and cherries. Ugh. The only good thing about Belgium is Jean-Claude Van Damme, and even he only goes so far.

    • by beakburke (550627) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:14PM (#28732791) Homepage

      Since Brussels is the headquarters of the EU, maybe you could DC it. An independent city under the jurisdiction of the EU.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        Moreover, it's not as if Europe doesn't have several independent city-states (Monaco, Vatican City, Liechtenstein, etc.) already anyway!

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          Fucking Liechtenstein. They'll be the first country I invade when I become King of America.

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      Well past its time, a pissant country with profanity for name.
    • What about the waffles? Won't anyone think of the waffles?
    • by whoever57 (658626) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:49PM (#28733233) Journal
      Let's not forget the USA's actions against foreign based gambling operations. The USA started this type of action!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sbeckstead (555647)
        We already fixed that and Kentucky has been rebuffed.
      • by Tanktalus (794810) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:22PM (#28733635) Journal

        Hmmm. And here I thought that the US merely forbid US-based credit card companies from paying to on-line casinos. That'd be entirely legal (even if the effect, or even the desired effect, is of dubious value). Not quite the same thing as fining foreign casinos, or even outlawing them (per se).

      • While the US does sometimes create some funny examples, it did not invent this kind of idiocy. Disputes like this have always happened, between lots of different groups. It's just a new battleground now, which is more visible to the younger generations than previous examples. And of course, the young people see the internet differently than the older generations.

        Older folks continue to try to control it like they've controlled things in the past. Younger folks proclaim the internet to be completely free

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by pitch2cv (1473939)
        And, wasn't it the CIA who extracted individuals from wherever they please? http://www.google.com/search?q=CIA+extract+learjet [google.com] Why go through the hassle of ordering through court when one can unilaterally deceide to extract suspects from other sovereign countries? Maybe Belgium should just send a Learjet and extract the Yahoo responsables, and question them in some marginal country in exchange for a batch of P90 machineguns.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      For all I care Belgium can disintegrate. If wallonia wants to join France, so be it. If Eupen want to join Germany, so be it. If both want to stay independent, so be it. I don't care. But Flanders will become an independent republic. It would never join the Netherlands. You would have to pry Brussel from our cold dead hands, before we would let it join Wallonia. Or it could go to the EU as the DC capital of europe, which is also fine. Fighting over Brussel costs too much money, and we are a peaceful people
      • by jim_v2000 (818799)
        Hey, at least you have culture! /American
      • by johannesg (664142) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:47PM (#28733949)

        For all I care Belgium can disintegrate. If wallonia wants to join France, so be it. If Eupen want to join Germany, so be it. If both want to stay independent, so be it. I don't care.
        But Flanders will become an independent republic. It would never join the Netherlands. You would have to pry Brussel from our cold dead hands, before we would let it join Wallonia. Or it could go to the EU as the DC capital of europe, which is also fine. Fighting over Brussel costs too much money, and we are a peaceful people anyway. But sending billions of euros to wallonia, while they spit on our culture and threaten our territorial integrity, has to stop.

        Bonus point if you guess which side I am from.

        Oh, come on! The Netherlands really isn't that bad. We love our southern neighbours, their chocolate, their beer, their friendly demeanor... And you might enjoy our liberal drug-policies and cheap, fast internet. When you join, we will (as a bonus) finally get around to fixing the access to the Antwerp harbor, as well as the railway to Germany that you have been craving for such a long time.

        On the other hand, we wouldn't want to share a border with France, so I'm in favor of keeping at least something of a buffer zone...

        • by Sam Lowry (254040)

          I'd vote for desintegration if all belgians had cheaper and better internt from French and Dutch providers. Here in Belgium internet connectivity is double in price and one quarter in bandwidth of what they pay across the border.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          No, the Netherlands ain't bad. But why would we exchange an annoying minority in the south with a nice majority in the north. We want independence, so that we can determine our own future.
    • 3 years ago, Spamhaus was fined by a US federal court in Illinois. Of course, jurisdiction was the issue, and the US lost in the appeal. It was reported on here in slashdot. Makes the US no different from Belgium, except Belgian beer is better than ours. http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/05/1359232 [slashdot.org]
    • Belgium, which is notorious for its disruptive behavior on the Internet

      Citation needed.

    • California doesn't get along with the east coast either... can we split up the US too and save California from the Fed?

      Same logic *shrugs*

  • Catch 22 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SirFozzie (442268) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:10PM (#28732739)

    If this was true, then talk about your dammed if you do, dammed if you don't moment. Some countries require this data to only be kept for a small amount of time, others require it for a long amount of time. They demand data.. do you face trouble for not turning over the data that the foreign folks require, or fufill the data request and take it in the shorts from your home nation?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kent_eh (543303)

      Some countries require this data to only be kept for a small amount of time, others require it for a long amount of time. They demand data.. do you face trouble for not turning over the data that the foreign folks require, or fufill the data request and take it in the shorts from your home nation?

      And other countries demand that users' personal information be kept private. (see the earlier thread of Facebook and the Canadian privacy commissioner)

    • Its not a catch 22 its a "fuck-em-all". If you don't want to play by our rules, we'll ban IPs from your country.

      At least thats what they should do...
    • Re:Catch 22 (sorta) (Score:3, Informative)

      by davecb (6526) *

      The library community faced this years ago, and the results are embedded in library software to this day.

      Records are kept of who has a book until such time as they have returned it undamaged, after which that item is destroyed. Records of how many fines a customer paid are kept for longer, and records of how many books circulated are kept for substantially longer.

      In effect, it's horses for courses. Privacy-sensitive information has a short life, billing longer, but not forever, and totals, which are ne

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:11PM (#28732755) Homepage Journal

    potentially exposing individual employees to a variety of criminal sanctions

    Meaning if you were a Twitter employee, you could be sued or sentenced to a prison term by Iranian officials? I doubt the US would honor an extradition request from a country it's cut off political ties with, but Pakistan or North Korea might.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:13PM (#28732781) Journal
    ... get off my lawn.
  • Following logic... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jack9 (11421) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:15PM (#28732817)

    The implications of this ruling are profound and far-reaching. Following the court's logic would subject user data associated with any service generally available online to the jurisdiction of all countries.

    Historically, this has always been the case. This is not alarming to me in any way. The courts pick and choose when to enforce foreign and domestic policies. Ever been subjected to a pissed off Israel? All your logs are belong to them vis a vis the FBI. What's more, who thinks that stare decisis matters when dealing with such a major change? Sensationalism on /. I'm seeing the trend now. Get back to me when this is at the court of appeals thx.

    • by ipX (197591)

      Sensationalism on Techdirt.

      Fixed that for you.

      Nothing new to see here, move along.

  • by javacowboy (222023) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:16PM (#28732821)

    This is about as laughable as a Brazilian judge ordering YouTube shut down because a incriminating video of two Brazilian celebrities kept getting posted on that site. Needless to say, YouTube is still up and running.

    This isn't the first strange internet ruling coming out of Belgium. There was the row between Copiepresse and Google over Google linking to Copiepresse's newspapers. Google was fined and promptly stopped linking to the newspaper's sites.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There was the row between Copiepresse and Google over Google linking to Copiepresse's newspapers. Google was fined and promptly stopped linking to the newspaper's sites.

      At which point, IIRC, Copiepresse sued Google to force them to link to Copiepresse, and have Google pay for said "privilege".

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by javacowboy (222023)

        At which point, IIRC, Copiepresse sued Google to force them to link to Copiepresse, and have Google pay for said "privilege".

        I searched for this, but I wasn't able to find any references to the story. Not that I don't believe you, but do you have a link?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by andr386 (703803)
      Has any of you read TFA. Belgium demands private informations about BELGIAN USERS ..., "The United States and Belgium have a formal international treaty which the prosecutor should have followed to properly seek information from a US company." Had they gone trough the proper, channels the might have well received it legally, since Belgium has special agreements with the U.S on such matters, and it goes without saying that it goes both ways. What I really don't understand is why they didn't do it the rig
  • sovereignty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigpat (158134) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:18PM (#28732859)

    This is appears to be a threat to our sovereignty. Time to bring in the State Department.

    Can't have foreign governments pushing their laws on US companies operating on our own soil. If this were data collected in their country by a company operating in their country then that is a different story. Otherwise this would be like a foreign government demanding the contents of my underwear drawer just because someone they were interested in had called me on the phone.

    Practically speaking, if Google has any finances or offices in that country then they have to make a value judgement because the local government has the ability to impose their penalties, but pulling out of this country rather than complying should also be their option. And if a US company is forced to pull out of the EU, then the US should retaliate in kind.

    • You might not want to call in the State Department. It is headed by this lady known as Hillary Clinton who gave a speech [state.gov] to the CFR yesterday saying we should give up our sovereignty.

      After admitting that NGO's like the CFR actually run the government (who elected them?), she says we nee to give up all of our sovereignty.

      Thank you very much, Richard, and I am delighted to be here in these new headquarters. I have been often to, I guess, the mother ship in New York City, but itâ(TM)s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice from the Council, so this will mean I wonâ(TM)t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing and how we should think about the future.

      But they are not reason to despair about the future. The same forces that compound our problems â" economic interdependence, open borders, and the speedy movement of information, capital, goods, services and people â" are also part of the solution. And with more states facing common challenges, we have the chance, and a profound responsibility, to exercise American leadership to solve problems in concert with others. That is the heart of Americaâ(TM)s mission in the world today.

      If you don't believe that she gets her orders from the CFR then you should check out the link about Smart Power to the right. The CFR gloats that they came up with that term over 4 years ago

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:21PM (#28732911)

    would subject user data associated with any service generally available online to the jurisdiction of all countries

    You have organisations in one country trying to impose their rules on people in other countries. The basic problem is that the internet does not follow country boundaries and until there is some internationally agreed (as opposed to single-ended imposition) treaties to say exactly who has jusidiction, over what and where, these things will continue to cause trouble. The U.S. already assumes that any data which touches servers in their country makes the sender / receiver subject to their laws (ref: the Natwest three - look it up), so it's only fair that other countries should uphold the same standards.

  • Response (Score:4, Informative)

    by Absolut187 (816431) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:25PM (#28732953) Homepage

    Step 1) Ignore the fine
    Step 2) Don't go to Belgium

    • by Dr Caleb (121505)

      3) Stop collecting this information to begin with.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:33PM (#28733045)

    Why is it that only our generation understands the truly public and universal nature of the internet? Nobody owns the internet, and nobody ever will. You can claim to own the wires, the equipment, the computers, the software, and every other component, but you still won't own the internet. The internet has given birth to an idea -- that we're all interconnected and nobody owns the spaces in between. This idea recurs generation after generation, only to die because society can't find a place for it.

    Oh, but they'll try. They will cast their books down on our heads, scream a million epitaths of criminal, deviant, terrorists, and invent new terms to express their disgust. They'll arrest us, punish us, and wage massive campaigns of fear. But they'll never get the idea out of our heads that maybe, just maybe, we don't have to pay their tax to touch the life of another person.

    • by DM9290 (797337) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:46PM (#28733195) Journal

      Why is it that only our generation understands the truly public and universal nature of the internet? Nobody owns the internet, and nobody ever will. You can claim to own the wires, the equipment, the computers, the software, and every other component, but you still won't own the internet. The internet has given birth to an idea -- that we're all interconnected and nobody owns the spaces in between. This idea recurs generation after generation, only to die because society can't find a place for it.

      Oh, but they'll try. They will cast their books down on our heads, scream a million epitaths of criminal, deviant, terrorists, and invent new terms to express their disgust. They'll arrest us, punish us, and wage massive campaigns of fear. But they'll never get the idea out of our heads that maybe, just maybe, we don't have to pay their tax to touch the life of another person.

      they disagree with you, and they are the ones with the guns, jails and judges to enforce what they believe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      ...And it is precisely this realization and attitude that makes me hopeful of the future. Societies may rise and fall, governments may dictate and mandate, all hell can break loose politically, but frankly, humans, and the younger generations in general, have tasted the freedom of the internet and the ideas it embraces. Laws can be passed and a whole world can be turned into criminals, but as long as the attitude of the parent post prevails there will always be some group of hackers, some tech junkies, some
    • by gillbates (106458) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:48PM (#28733959) Homepage Journal

      The native Americans used to ask. To them, the land was so fundamentally free that to own a piece of it seemed a sacrilege (sp?) against nature.

      But then, along came Europeans, and land the Indians had used for centuries was suddenly denied them. You see, Europeans had this notion of property rights extending to the very stuff you put your feet on. You might think it's absurd to lay claim to the internet, but believe me, someone is already thinking about ways of divvying it up and making ordinary people pay for what they used to get for free. You'll pay to transmit, and your recipient will pay to receive. And somewhere, somehow, if the telecoms can manage it, you'll pay a monthly fee to them to *store* the content you received from the internet. Let's not forget Time Warner, who wanted to triple bill YouTube - once for the priviledge of connecting to the Net, a second time for the priviledge of providing *premium* content, and the third time is the user who pays for the bandwidth of downloading it from YouTube.

      Freedom isn't free, after all - as the saying goes. If you think the internet can't be owned, you've obviously never met a US legislator.

  • 1. Belgium fines yahoo.
    2. Yahoo doesn't pay.
    3. Belgium scratches their head wondering what to do next.

    If the US fines Yahoo and Yahoo doesn't pay the US freezes Yahoo's assets. Belgium doesn't have that option.

  • when he provided us with the true definition [bbc.co.uk] of Belgium.

  • by lamadude (1270542)
    is not that Belgium wants this information, it would help in the fraud investigation that is ongoing. The fraud was commited in Belgium by people using yahoo email adresses, how are they supposed to find these people? The problem is: 1. That Belgium takes Yahoo to court instead of relying on the mutual legal assistance treaty which already exists between the US and Belgium 2. That the court actually followed Belgium's reasoning, which creates a dangerous precedent.
  • by sugarmotor (621907) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:01PM (#28733363) Homepage

    I am getting the suspicion that this story pretends this to be a bigger issue because it affects an American company.

    However, this kind of "which laws are affecting what I do" has already got individuals. See for example the case of Hew Raymond Griffiths,

      * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hew_Raymond_Griffiths [wikipedia.org]
      * http://www.ibls.com/internet_law_news_portal_view.aspx?id=1778&s=latestnews [ibls.com]

    Griffiths was extradited from Australia to the U.S., a country he had never visited, for some "Intellectual Property" crimes.

    For a company it is a mere money issue, but when individuals are extradited it becomes extremely problematic.

    Stephan

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:29PM (#28733729) Journal

    Was this decision rendered in a Belgian or US criminal court? TFA and the summary don't make this important distinction.

    If it was in a Belgian court it's a "go whistle" to get the decree enforced. (But Yahoo executives will have to be careful about European travel in the future if they thumb their nose.) If it was in a US court it's a whole different can of worms.

  • by mea37 (1201159) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:36PM (#28733829)

    Somewhere along the line, everyone assumes that technology changes making something easy will automatically cause the legal landscape to fall in line so there are no repercussions when you do it.

    The Internet has made it so easy to "act" simultaniously in, and interact simultaniously with the citizens of, every country on Earth, that even a small business potentially does it without even thinking about it; and even if you made the conscious decision not to, that would be hard.

    So we say the Internet erases boundaries, but we don't really comprehend what that means. One thing we should realize it doesn't mean: it doesn't mean the whole world is suddenly one big USA.

    The approach Belgium is taking here isn't one I want to see take hold, but I can't say I'm surprised to see it tried. A lot of the more "reasonable" approaches we could land on are not, in a lot of ways, "better".

  • by RobVB (1566105) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:53PM (#28734041)

    Not too long ago a number of European countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Belgium, possibly more) at least partially gave up their banking secrecy after being pressured by the US, because the US wanted that information to fight fraud. Now Belgium is asking for information and suddenly privacy becomes an insurmountable issue.

    I'm not defending the way this requesting and sharing of information is going, and I'm not defending Belgium for trying to bypass privacy laws, but I do think it's awfully hypocritical of the United States to quickly hide behind their privacy laws after making us change ours.

    And another thing - why do people immediately suggest to "Put Belgium to Sleep" when it causes a problem in the international community? Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, they think dividing this country among its neighbors will fix everything? In a discussion about American sovereignty on a very important issue, don't forget to respect Belgian sovereignty on an even more important one. The continued existence of the Belgian state is something its citizens, and its citizens alone, should decide about.

  • Anytime you have a company that transcends country boundaries you are begging for trouble.
    Separate, cooperative companies seems far safer, cheaper, and adaptable.

  • The only logical outcome is such a ruling were upheld on the international stage would be to segregate the Internet and seal the borders. If one nations privacy laws can be so easily circumvented by any other country, then such protections are meaningless, and the internet cannot be maintained as global community.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

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