Data Nationalism

Before trade wars, we had concerns over where electronic data is located. These concerns appear to have arise from two sources:

  • Privacy: if people are to be able to monitor and control the accuracy and release of personal information, they need access to it and then need to know where that information is. Governments can’t guarantee access to information outside their jurisdiction unless there are treaties in place. That’s the role the EU has played, and the South American countries that are honoring EU regulations.
  • Government investigative access: At the same time and in conflict with the Privacy objective, governments want access to data to allow them to manage corruption, money laundering and related activities. For the same reason as with privacy, it’s easier to have access if the data reside in the jurisdiction.

To explain by example, if Google has data on Brazilian citizens, Brazil wants those data to reside on servers physicially located in Brazil. Further, if Google wants to back up the data to a server someplace else, it needs to obtain written permission from each individual whose information is included.

That’s Brazil. The US doesn’t care and doesn’t offer its citizens comparable protection.

So while some leaders advocate open borders to trade, they at the same time favor closed borders to data. Others offer closed borders to immigration and trade, but let companies do whatever they want with data. Which matters more?

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