European states most likely to abuse privacy laws

One of the largest internet security companies in the world has claimed European countries are “by far” the most likely to abuse privacy laws when demanding details about online activity.

Matthew Prince, founder of Cloudflare, said the firm spends a lot of time pushing back from “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” requests from law enforcement agencies who are not going through legal procedures.

However, despite the current furore over US spying on communications, Mr Prince said European authorities are much more inclined to ask for information not directly relevant to their investigations.

“We get so many law enforcement requests and the most abusive law enforcement requests, by far, that we get come from European nations — by far,” he said.

Cloudflare, which speeds up and protects websites from attacks, is behind one in every 20 websites visited across the globe.

Among its customers are governments and organisations disliked by governments.

They include the US administration, Wikileaks, the Central Bank of Brazil, the Internal Revenue Service of Pakistan, and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaking at the Dublin Web Summit in Ireland, Mr Prince said his company has to “push back” from “extremely broad” requests for information on websites on its networks. He brands the requests as “abusive” and claims that European law enforcement agencies are much less likely to follow due process when seeking such details.

“There’s more wink, wink, nudge, nudge; there’s less process that is followed,” Mr Prince told the Press Association. “While there is plenty the US should be deeply ashamed of... I’ve been surprised at how few law enforcement requests that we get that we would characterise as abusive, as a percentage. Where, as a percentage, out of Europe it’s a much higher level.”

Mr Prince is an outspoken proponent of free speech on the internet.

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