Bonum Certa Men Certa

EPO and Microsoft Collude to Break the Law -- Part XV: Has the EPO Sold Out Its “Digital Sovereignty”?

Previous parts:



EPO GDPR disaster
Is the EPO heading towards a GDPR disaster?
EPO Vice-President Steve Rowan says "Not on your Nellie!"
But sceptics remain unconvinced.



Summary: "Given the tenor of the ongoing political debate about European "digital sovereignty", it does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that these recent developments at the EPO deserve to be a matter of urgent concern at the highest political level in Europe."

Although it is probably fair to say that there is no general consensus about what exactly the concept of “digital sovereignty” covers at the level of detail, the term has nevertheless become a key catch-phrase of contemporary political discourse.



In the earlier parts of this series we saw how various events over the last decade such as Edward Snowden's whistle-blowing revelations in 2013, the passage of the US CLOUD Act and entry into force of the EU GDPR in 2018, and the Schrems II judgment from the CJEU in July 2020 contributed to fuel the political debate about "digital sovereignty" in Europe.

Both at the supranational level of the EU and at the national level in its member states, there have been consistent calls for greater self-determination and strategic autonomy with regard to technology and the digital economy.

"Both at the supranational level of the EU and at the national level in its member states, there have been consistent calls for greater self-determination and strategic autonomy with regard to technology and the digital economy."These calls serve as shorthand for the aspiration to reduce dependency on digital infrastructures and services from foreign providers, notably the US.

The global circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying changes have added weight to these calls for more independence and decision-making capacity in the digital sphere.

One significant example of this came in July 2020 when the German government, which had assumed the presidency of the Council of the EU, announced its intention to "establish digital sovereignty as a leitmotiv of European digital policy".

However, inside the "echo chamber" of the EPO's senior management and governance bodies, the competent decision-makers appear to be either entirely oblivious to the prevailing tenor of the current European debate or hell-bent on ignoring the clearly articulated policy statements about enhancing European "digital sovereignty".

In fact, with its latest procurement decisions relating to IT services, the EPO seems to have gone off on its own "solo run" in a diametrically opposed direction.

A unicorn cloud
Despite plentiful indications to the contrary, EPO management continues to peddle the myth of a "close alignment" with EU data protection policy



The intellectual duplicity of senior EPO management in such matters has long been apparent from the lip-service paid to the purported GDPR-compliance of the EPO's internal data protection regulations and their fondness for peddling the myth of a "close alignment" with EU data protection policy. This is generally recognised by EPO insiders as a piece of well-rehearsed humbug for external consumption which does not stand up to closer scrutiny.

This duplicity has now reached new heights with recent IT procurement decisions in favour of Microsoft which are clearly at odds with the spirit of European data protection law and incompatible with the political goal of enhancing European "digital sovereignty".

As explained previously, these decisions have effectively resulted in the large-scale export of operational data from the EPO to external data processing infrastructure owned by and under the control of a privately owned US-based multinational corporation.

In an internal communiqué addressed to all staff the EPO's Vice-President Steve Rowan has openly admitted that this "exported" data is not secure from the prying eyes of US security and intelligence agencies:

Under the US Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) and the US Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), Microsoft is obliged to grant security and intelligence agencies access to data stored in its cloud, even when stored on EU servers.


"As explained previously, these decisions have effectively resulted in the large-scale export of operational data from the EPO to external data processing infrastructure owned by and under the control of a privately owned US-based multinational corporation."Even if the risk of "official" (i.e. state-sanctioned) industrial espionage were to be discounted, the data in question has - for all practical intents and purposes - been placed at the disposal of Microsoft such that it could easily be accessed by the company for its own ulterior ends.

It is worth pointing out that this data is likely to include confidential internal communications from members of first instance divisions in examination and opposition proceedings. It also presumably includes confidential internal communications from members of the Boards of Appeal who rely on the IT infrastructure provided by the Office.

It is difficult to see how such developments can be reconciled with the spirit of European data protection law or how they could realistically be characterised as anything other than a misguided and ignominious sell-out of the EPO's own "digital sovereignty".

Given the tenor of the ongoing political debate about European "digital sovereignty", it does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that these recent developments at the EPO deserve to be a matter of urgent concern at the highest political level in Europe.

At the very least these matters seem to merit discussion at a "conference of ministers of the Contracting States responsible for patent matters" which is envisaged under Article 4a of the European Patent Convention and which is supposed to take place "at least every five years".

But given that the Administrative Council has repeatedly failed to convene such a conference ever since Article 4a EPC entered into effect in December 2007, it is seems quite likely that the competent ministers of the EPO contracting states have not yet been properly briefed about the catastrophic data protection situation at the EPO and the currently ongoing sell-out of the organisation's "digital sovereignty" by its senior management.

As we noted in the preceding instalment, one of Battistelli's first moves as President of the European Office was to procure the abolition of the independent Audit Committee which reported directly to the Administrative Council.

"Given the tenor of the ongoing political debate about European "digital sovereignty", it does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that these recent developments at the EPO deserve to be a matter of urgent concern at the highest political level in Europe."The intended functions of the Audit Committee included advising the Administrative Council about potential conflicts of interest and risk management.

Now that this independent committee has been abolished there is nobody around to warn the Council about the potential political and security risks of the dubious "IT roadmap" being implemented by the senior management of the EPO.

So if the Administrative Council delegates themselves are not on top of the situation - which appears to be the case - it would be too much to expect them to be in a position to brief their supervising ministers in an effective manner.

As things stand the EPO caravan seems destined to trundle forwards on auto-pilot until it is jolted out of its complacency by some kind of monumental data protection "clusterf**k".

Or perhaps matters will come to a head when a pre-emptive complaint is filed with the European Data Protection Supervisor or some kind of legal challenge is mounted to the EPO's non-compliance with GDPR standards by a privacy advocate like Max Schrems?

"As things stand the EPO caravan seems destined to trundle forwards on auto-pilot until it is jolted out of its complacency by some kind of monumental data protection "clusterf**k"."Even then, the usual suspects will probably do their best to hide behind a smoke screen and sweep the debris under the carpet before anybody notices and starts asking too many awkward questions.

We would like to end this series on an optimistic note but for the moment the best advice we can give to those hoping for firm political action to counteract the sell-out of the EPO's "digital sovereignty" is the following: "Don't hold your breath…"

Recent Techrights' Posts

1901 Days in High-Security Prison (and 8 More Years in Severe Confinement) for the 'Crime' of Exposing War Crimes and Corruption
Julian Assange clip
Opensource.org = Microsoft Lobbying (Openwashing)
Here's the latest pair of blog posts
In Northern Mariana Islands, Where Julian Assange Pled Guilty 4 Weeks Ago, Windows Remains Second to Android, and GNU/Linux Still Grows in Oceania
It was the first month ever that statCounter saw more Web requests there from Android than from Windows
Good News About GNU/Linux, Geminispace, FSF, and Backlash Against Microsoft
here are a few quick takes
Backlash and Negative Press After Microsoft Tells Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) People to DIE
Follow-up stories
Red Hat's Official Site Yesterday: Promoting 'Secure' Boot in Machines You Don't Own or Control Anyway
"To be clear, CentOS Linux no longer exist"
 
UEFI 'Secure Boot' Once Again Bricking PCs and Fake Security Models Are Perishing in Geminispace
Let's Encrypt has just fallen again
[Meme] Conservative (and Fake) Nuclear Physicist Bill Gates
Didn't even graduate from college, media treats him like a world-renowned expert in nuclear energy
The Gemini Capsule of Tux Machines Turns 2 in Six Days
Many people actually use Gemini, some participate in it by creating their own capsule (or capsules)
GNU/Linux Rises to 4% in Saudi Arabia, Says statCounter, Windows Has Fallen to 11% (Android Exceeds 60%)
Microsoft might soon fall below 10% in KSA (Saudi Arabia)
IRC Proceedings: Thursday, July 18, 2024
IRC logs for Thursday, July 18, 2024
GNU/Linux news for the past day
GNU/Linux news for the past day
If GitLab Gets Sold (Datadog and Google Named Among Potential Buyers), It'll Prove Our Point About GitLab
Beware the bait on the hook
Hot Summer: Microsoft Flirting With the "5% Windows" Club in Afghanistan
The share of Windows in Afghanistan has fallen to almost 5% (1 in 20 Web requests)
[Meme] Nothing Says "Independence Day" Like...
Firing DEI on Independence Day period
Links 18/07/2024: Hardware, Conflicts, and Gemini Leftovers
Links for the day
Links 18/07/2024: Retroactively Pseudonymised Litigant and Alberta’s Energy ‘War Room’
Links for the day
Gemini Links 18/07/2024: A Welcome to Gemini and Politics of Assassinations
Links for the day
Fabian Gruenbichler & Debian: former GSoC student added to keyring
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 18/07/2024: ORG Complaint to ICO About Facebook, Korean Double Agent Unmasked
Links for the day
Joel Espy Klecker & Debian on Joe Biden's health and Donald Trump's assassination
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, July 17, 2024
IRC logs for Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Links 18/07/2024: Hostname Pedantry and Retro Coding
Links for the day
Fedora Week of Diversity (FWD) 2024 Attracting 0.01% of the IBM Staff "Was a Success"
They expect volunteers (unpaid slaves) to do the PR for them...
African's Largest Population (Nigeria) Approaching 80% Android "Market Share" Amid Steady Monthly Increases While Microsoft Has Mass Layoffs in Nigeria
Microsoft- and Apple-sponsored Western (or English-speaking) media chooses to ignore that or treat it as irrelevant (a racist disposition in its own right)
[Meme] The Warlord's Catspaw
Thugs that troll us
Microsoft Misogyny Will be the Fall of Microsoft (Covering Up for Misogynists is a Huge Mistake and Highly Misguided Short-term Strategy)
Microsoft's undoing may in fact be its attitude towards women
Microsoft's Bing Falls to Fourth in the Europe/Asia-Based Turkey, Share Halved Since LLM Hype, Now Only 1% (Sometimes Less)
Turkey (Eurasia) is another example of Microsoft failing with LLM hype and just burning a lot of energy in vain (investment without returns)
Red Hat Keeps Behaving Like a Microsoft Reseller (for Proprietary Stuff!), Microsoft Employees as Authors in redhat.com
In some ways this reminds us of Novell
Links 17/07/2024: New Attacks on the Press, European Patents Squashed Even at Kangaroo Court (UPC)
Links for the day
Gemini Links 17/07/2024: Proponents of Censorship and New Arrivals at Gemini
Links for the day
Links 17/07/2024: School Budget Meltdown and Modern Cars as Tracking Nightmares
Links for the day
This Should Certainly be Illegal, But the Person Who Helped Microsoft Do This is Still Attacking the Critics of It
perhaps time for an "I told you so post"
Censorship as Signal of Opportunity for Reform
It remains sad and ironic that Wikileaks outsourced so much of its official communications to Twitter (now X)
[Meme] A Computer With an Extra Key on the Keyboard Isn't Everyone's Priority
(so your telling me meme)
The World Wide Web Has Been Rotting for Years (Quality, Accuracy, and Depth Consistently Decreasing)
In the past people said that the Web had both "good" and "bad" and that the good outweighed the bad
Comoros: Windows Plunges to Record Low of About 6% in Country of a Million People (in 2010 Windows Was 100%)
Many of these people earn a few dollars a day; they don't care for Microsoft's "Hey Hi PC" hype
Africa as an Important Reminder That Eradicating Microsoft Doesn't Go Far Enough
Ideally, if our top goal is bigger than "get rid of Microsoft", we need to teach people to choose and use devices that obey them, not GAFAM
Billions of Computers Run Linux and Many Use Debian (or a Derivative of It)
many devices never get updated or even communicate with the Net, so exhaustive tallies are infeasible
The Mail (MX) Server Survey for July 2024 Shows Microsoft Collapsing to Only 689 Servers or 0.17% of the Whole (It Used to be About 25%)
Microsoft became so insignificant and the most astounding thing is how the media deliberate ignores it or refuses to cover it
[Meme] Microsoft is Firing
Don't worry, Microsoft will have some new vapourware coming soon
More DEI (or Similar) Layoffs on the Way, According to Microsoft Team Leader
What happened shortly before Independence Day wasn't the end of it, apparently
Windows Down From 98.5% to 22.9% in Hungary
Android is up because more people buy smaller mobile devices than laptops
Microsoft Windows in Algeria: From 100% to Less Than 15%
Notice that not too long ago Windows was measured at 100%. Now? Not even 15%.
[Meme] Many Volunteers Now Realise the "Open" in "OpenSUSE" or "openSUSE" Was Labour-Mining
Back to coding, packaging and testing, slaves
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, July 16, 2024
IRC logs for Tuesday, July 16, 2024
Microsoft Windows "Market Share" in New Zealand Plunges to 25%
Android rising
[Meme] Ein Factory
A choice between "masters" (or "master race") is a false choice that results in mass exploitation and ultimately eradication (when there's little left to exploit)
Links 17/07/2024: Open Source Initiative Lies and Dark Net Thoughts
Links for the day
SUSE Goes Aryan: You May Not Use the Germanic Brand Anymore (It's Monopolised by the Corporation)
Worse than grammar Nazis
Media Distorting Truth to Promote Ignorance
online media is rapidly collapsing
Gratis But Not Free as in Freedom: How Let's Encrypt is Dying in Geminispace
Let's Encrypt is somewhat of a dying breed where the misguided CA model is shunned