Leaked TISA text exposes US threat to privacy, data security and net neutrality

Original Publication Date: 
17 December, 2014

'The US is demanding that New Zealand and other countries accept sweeping rules that would override privacy protections for digitised personal and other data’, according to Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland.

Obligations to allow cross-border movement and storage of data, and other rules that undermine net neutrality and prohibit requirements that service suppliers site their servers within the country are in a leaked US proposal to the ongoing negotiations for a Trade in Services Agreement.

TISA is another mega-agreement being negotiated in secret among 23 parties including the US, New Zealand and the EU, who call themselves the ‘Really Good Friends of Services’. This leak follows an earlier leak of the financial services chapter, which also showed far-reaching new constraints on governments’ ability to regulate services in the public interest.

 A detailed memorandum by Professor Kelsey and Dr Burcu Kilic shows how the US proposals mirror the demands of its IT and services industry. The proposal has three objectives, to:

1) advance the commercial interests of its services industry that supplies services across the border, mainly through e-commerce, and foreign direct investment in manufacturing and services.

2) consolidate data repositories to the benefit of the US government, transnational companies (TNCs) and third party commercial interests. This serves a range of commercial and ‘national security’ purposes.

3) prevent or restrict government regulation that impedes the activities and profits of the major global services industries, and guarantees unrestricted cross-border data flows, which impacts on consumer protections, privacy laws, regulatory constraints and competition policy.

US negotiator Christine Bliss said in September 2014 that the US had made similar demands in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Both New Zealand and Australia have objected to the potential impact on privacy. Secrecy of the TPPA text makes it impossible to know who won.

‘Privacy is not the only concern’, Professor Kelsey observed. ‘The Snowden disclosures show how vulnerable digitised data is to spying, especially by and in a country like the US that has extensive and intrusive national security laws. The mega-firms like Google, who are pushing for these rules, have been distressingly cooperative. Their proposals would lock in the ability of the US to spy on New Zealanders and people in many other countries.’

‘Clearly the US will use every avenue available to push these demands from its IT and services industry. New Zealand will be caught through one agreement or another’, Professor Kelsey warned.