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Mar 09 2015

TeleTrust Warns Against TTIP


Germany's IT security association TeleTrusT is taking issue with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU which is supposed to be signed by the end of the year. The experts' main worry is that once closed, the treaty could corrupt Europe's IT security and privacy protection standards.

According to an official TeleTrusT statement published on Monday, TTIP requires that Europe and the U.S. mutually agree on standards that facilitate non-discriminatory market access for IT vendors and service providers. If reached, such an agreement might have a major impact on the various legal and technical frameworks concerning security products and services as applied by the EU member states. The subject is particularly touchy with regard to crypto algorithms that usually must be approved by national cyber security centers such as Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). In particular, TeleTrusT criticizes that the BSI was not directly involved in TTIP negotiations and wants to avert the risk of (possibly corrupted) NIST standards becoming pre-dominant in the European market. To minimize these risks, the trade association has now issued a catalog of five "premises" that TTIP negotiators and policy-makers should be obliged to check before entering an agreement. Here's the list:

  • While the ICT industry generally benefits from global standards and global technical specifications, the TTIP negotiations must not lead to a downward spiral for IT security standards motivated by political concessions.
  • TTIP must not result in lower levels of safety for commercial IT products in terms of IT security, especially not in weaker cryptographic algorithms.
  • A trade agreement between the EU and the US is ultimately desirable and welcome, but must not be reached at the cost of adopting the lower U.S. privacy standards revealed by Edward Snowden.
  • Creating an interregional economic space will necessarily boost the flow of data between the EU and the US, especially that of confidential, personal data. This should not happen without a concerted understanding of the term privacy. A lack of uniform standards could instead lead to different standards being imposed on companies on either side of the Atlantic and thus distort competition.
  • Liberalized access to public contracts must not endanger national digital sovereignty.

Whether or not these premises will have any effect on the negotiations remains to be seen. However, this is the first time an industry association has openly criticized not so much the TTIP talks themselves, but the relative obscurity of the negotiation process, which so far excludes relevant stakeholders. Proponents of the EU-U.S. agreement should not take this criticism too lightly or worse, try to ridicule it as typical German angst – after all, TeleTrusT not only represents Germany's ICT sector, but also local divisions of global heavyweights such as Fujitsu, Microsoft, RSA/EMC, SAP, Siemens, and Symantec.


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