Rabu, 18 September 2013

Who has jurisdiction over me ?

The principle of jurisdiction is a basic tenet in law. Jurisdiction refers to the  law, the court, the authority that is applicable to you . You are then required to follow that law and be subject to  oversight by that authority and that court. In the good old days, jurisdiction was simple - where you were decided who had jurisdiction over you.  I live in India and so the laws of India apply to me. The government of India is the authority that has jurisdiction over me and the courts in India  are the forum I can go to. Simple.

As the world started to globalise, the issue of jurisdiction started to become more complicated. If I did a commercial transaction with say an Australian company - who would have jurisdiction ?  Australia ? India ? That is why in contracts involving multiple countries it is always stated which law would apply and which courts would have jurisdiction. But physical presence or assets always enables that country to have jurisdiction . Although I am an Indian citizen, when I travel to say Burkina Faso, the laws of that country shall prevail - If the law there says that I have to yell Abracadabra loudly three times at 4.27 AM, I better do so.

The arrival of the internet completely destroyed the fundamental principles of jurisdiction and unfortunately there are no legal treaties or conventions that seem to have decided this. Which is why jurisdiction has been "usurped" by the country that is powerful - the US of A. I am an unapologetic Americophile and have great admiration for that country;  yet I find the behaviour of the United States utterly deplorable and downright repulsive in this matter.

I am referring to the famous NSA and the spying it is doing on the world. All the hullabaloo in the US has been about spying on American citizens. But what about foreigners like me - the US has no jurisdiction over me and yet it intercepts every email of mine and reads it, if it wishes to. Forget a non entity like me; the US has been hacking   Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil. Now, it is fairly certain that she is no security threat to the US and yet the NSA has hacked her, simply because it could. Brazil is furious and she has cancelled her visit to the US triggering a diplomatic row.

It all boils down to jurisdiction. Google, Microsoft, et al - virtually every internet company of any note is headquartered in the United States and its servers where data is stored is physically based in the United States.  The NSA is therefore claiming jurisdiction and forcing these companies to turn over every data to it - of you and me as well, although we may have nothing to do with the United States.

The danger of balkanisation of the internet is obvious. Brazil is the first to respond (it is really pissed off that they hacked Dilma Rousseff). Brazil is contemplating a law that will force the likes of Google and Microsoft to store any data that originates from Brazil in servers in Brazil itself. Then the likes of the NSA have no jurisdiction and can be told loudly to %$#^ off.

It is easy to turn a blind eye to the NSA's shenanigans and argue that they are welcome to pore every inch over my boring life and inane communication. But that misses the point on civil liberties - a prize that over the centuries, generations have fought and guarded zealously.  If I decide to post my mug shot publicly on Facebook, then I have no right to claim privacy. But if I send a private email to a friend in India, then it is none of the NSA's business to snoop into it. I have no problems if the government of India wants to read it (although I would vigorously oppose that without a court warrant), but I will not tolerate the government of the United States reading it under any circumstance.

What about the NSA argument that this is necessary to combat terrorism and is for security considerations. Bullshit. That may have been how it started, but it has gone way beyond that now. Is Dilma Rousseff or the German embassy in Brussels remotely connected with terrorism - and yet both have been hacked into.  The sanctimonious nonsense of the US objecting to organised Chinese hacking is now exposed - they are no better than the Chinese and even the Chinese did not go far enough to hack Dilma Rousseff.

Why this post in a politics free business blog ? Simply because I am amazed that the fury over the NSA actions is not greater around the world. I may be an insignificant individual but I must speak my mind that the US has absolutely no jurisdiction over me.
Disqus Comments