Dutch Minister Changes Patriot Act Stance

US cloud providers can do business in the Netherlands while governments sort out conflicts in national laws

By Loek Essers
Wed, September 21, 2011

IDG News Service — The Dutch minister who had said that U.S. cloud providers might be kept from doing business in the Netherlands because of aspects of the Patriot Act now says the matter is a "conflict of legislation" that the nations have to deal with. Meanwhile, U.S. cloud providers can do business in the Netherlands.

Ivo Opstelten, the Dutch minister of safety and justice, earlier this month said that U.S. cloud providers could be excluded from Dutch government bids due to requirements of the Patriot Act. But he told the lower house last week: "This is a conflict of legislation that should initially be resolved between governments. Legislation to negate the American claim would mean that companies can no longer do business in both the United States and Europe."

Opstelten said earlier that U.S. cloud providers may find themselves unable to sell to the Dutch government due to concerns that the vendors could be compelled to share data with U.S. authorities under the provisions of the Patriot Act [http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9220093/European_data_concerns_cloud_outlook_for_U.S._vendors]. He changed his mind this weekend after deliberation in the Tweede Kamer (lower house) with the minister for the interior, Piet Hein Donner.

Andr Elissen, member of parliament, for the right wing Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom), who first raised the concerns, was displeased with what he called "a weakening" of a clear vision on how to deal with U.S. cloud vendors. "The PVV believes that data from Dutch citizens that is managed by the government should exclusively be stored within Dutch borders using Dutch companies," Elissen said in an email statement. He added that data should be stored by Dutch companies to guarantee the privacy of Dutch citizens.

Sophie in 't Veld, a member of parliament for the liberal ALDE party in the European Parliament, thinks the requirement not to transfer data of European citizens to the U.S. authorities under the Patriot Act could be a violation of E.U. competition and internal market rules as well as of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. In 't Veld filed parliamentary questions with Viviane Reding, European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, in which she asked to raise the matter of jurisdiction with the U.S. authorities as a matter of urgency. In 't Veld wants the European Commission to quickly resolve the Patriot Act cloud issue.

(Ren Schoemaker of Webwereld.nl contributed to this report.)

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