OPINIONS Ruling provides wake-up call to US dreams of digital hegemony

OPINIONS

Ruling provides wake-up call to US dreams of digital hegemony

By Wang Haibin | chinadaily.com.cn

23:01, September 25, 2020

The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec 2, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

On Tuesday, Facebook is reported as saying it might quit Europe if the ban on sharing data with the US gets enforced, which became possible after a ruling by the European Court of Justice in July found "there were insufficient safeguards against snooping by US intelligence agencies".

If that came true, that would be a huge loss for Facebook. So the question becomes: Why does it insist on sharing user data with the US, despite such a huge risk?

That's because the US tries to lead, dominate and reshape the rules of global flows of data. There was a time when the US dominated in the world digital economy, but the emergence of mass mobile terminals in Europe and Asia-Pacific granted them the ability to challenge this old hegemony. In order to maintain advantages in digital economy as an extension of its global strategic advantages, the US hopes to enforce its rules on the rest of the world.

Protection of data is a key point of disputes. Since the PRISM NSA surveillance program was exposed in 2013, the EU has been accelerating legislation to regulate trans-border data flows to protect personal and business privacy, yet the US insists on "free" flow of data over borders to maintain its own dominance.

These tensions were intensified by the above-mentioned ruling of the EU court in July, which actually invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield Agreement. In other words, the previous negotiations between the two sides on trans-border data flows were made obsolete.

Europe is only one place where the US hopes to implement its own rules. In the Asia-Pacific region, the US relies on multilateral agreements to form a circle that allows data to flow "freely" over borders. Sometimes it uses long-arm jurisdiction to strike at enterprises that protect data and curb unnecessary flow over borders, and TikTok is just one victim of this practice.

It should be noted the US' advocated "free" flow of data is not free at all; on the contrary, it hopes to bring data under its control. There are no signs Europe will give up ground to please the US, and China is firm in defending its own sovereignty in the sphere of data, too. It's time for the US to wake up from its illusion of controlling everything.

The author is an associate professor at the School of International Relations at the University of International Business and Economics.

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