This morning’s story in the Guardian about Yahoo’s decision to move its European headquarters to Ireland is I think very significant.
According to the Guardian, Home Secretary Theresa May summoned the company to a meeting to express the concerns of Scotland Yard that Yahoo will no longer be bound to co-operate with British anti-terrorism investigations once it completes is move to Ireland.
The story says Yahoo has been “horrified by some of the surveillance programmes revealed by Snowden and is understood to be relieved that it will be beyond the immediate reach of UK surveillance laws.”
Thus a giant company has chosen to move to a state with more favourable privacy/security regulations and practices – it will surely not be the last. I would not be surprised if we see European countries advertising themselves on the quality of their regulatory safeguards. And neither would I be surprised if the current Government insouciance at criticism of GCHQ oversight begins to crack when hard economic consequences are felt.
The internet has grown so fast and technology so powerful so quickly that the legal and regulatory framework in the West is way behind. This move by an internet giant (and potentially others to come) may be what it takes to start a grown up debate about the kinds of trade-offs and safeguards a modern society needs. So far it looks like indiscriminate tapping of the Yahoo messenger chats of millions of innocent citizens has occurred at the potential expense of a future lack of co-operation in the case of a genuine investigation into real suspects. Talk about own-goal.