EFF on TPP: all our worst fears confirmed

The US spent five years locking its trading partners in smoke-filled rooms with its most rapacious corporate lobbyists, writing a secret trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, all the while assuring us all that it would be great when it was done. It's awful.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's initial analysis of TPP is as terrifying a parade of horribles as you could ask for on Hallowe'en week: it defines copyright as an industrial good subject to the notorious Investor State Dispute Settlement process, which lets corporations sue governments to force them to repeal public interest laws that interfere with their profits.

It also prohibits rules that force tech companies (including companies storing sensitive public data for the government) to keep their data away from the NSA; under these rules, the US government can force all its trading partners to store their sensitive data on US soil, while simultaneously refusing to grant any privacy rights to non-US citizens.

It goes downhill from there:

This prioritization of trade interests over privacy rights pervades the rest of the chapter also. For example, Article 14.8 on Personal Information Protection contains a footnote providing that "a Party may comply with the obligation in this paragraph by … laws that provide for the enforcement of voluntary undertakings by enterprises relating to privacy." In other words, it is perfectly okay for countries to allow online advertising networks and data brokers to write their own rules for personal data protection, provided that the law holds them to these weak and self-serving standards. To characterize this as establishing any standard of data protection at all for the TPP countries is laughable; on the contrary, it legitimizes the lack of effective protection and fails to raise the bar even an inch.

Worse than that, paragraph 5 of Article 14.8 goes further by encouraging the parties to develop mechanisms to promote compatibility between their various privacy and data protection regimes. What this means is that parties with comprehensive personal data protection laws are encouraged to treat the weak, voluntary arrangements of other parties as in some way equivalent to their own, in order to streamline the exchange of data by these parties across borders. This is the same approach that was embodied in the EU-US Safe Harbor Agreement, that was thrown out by the European Court of Justice this month.

Similarly, the provision on net neutrality in Article 14.10 is so weak as to be meaningless. Rather than establishing any sort of enforceable obligation, the parties merely "recognise the benefits" of the access and use of services and applications of a consumer's choice, the connection of end-user devices of the consumer's choice, and the availability of information on network management practices. To the extent that the TPP countries can falsely point to this provision as "addressing" net neutrality, it may actually impede the development of stronger, more meaningful global standards.

Release of the Full TPP Text After Five Years of Secrecy Confirms Threats to Users' Rights
[Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton/EFF]

(Image: Sumofus, CC-BY)