EU, U.S. Agree on New Data Transfer Deal

    Feb 24, 2016

    After three months of talks and several starts and stops, U.S. and European officials have reached a new agreement on how digital data will be transferred from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Although still pending political approval, the new agreement is expected to replace the Safe Harbor agreement, which was challenged for not providing enough protection for European citizens.

    The new Privacy Shield agreement means European data protection authorities will not restrict data transfers as they planned to do without a deal in place. According to Reuters, the European Commission said the Privacy Shield will place stronger obligations on U.S. companies to protect Europeans' personal data and ensure stronger monitoring and enforcement by U.S. agencies.

    "We have for the first time received detailed written assurances from the United States on the safeguards and limitations applicable to U.S. surveillance program," Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip told the media. "On the commercial side, we have obtained strong oversight by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission of companies' compliance with their obligations to protect EU personal data."

    Per the agreement, the United States will create an ombudsman within the State Department to handle complaints and inquiries forwarded by EU data protection agencies, Reuters reported. There will also be an alternative dispute resolution mechanism to resolve grievances, as well as a joint annual review of the agreement.

    The new pact attempts to assuage privacy concerns by requiring written guarantees by the United States – which will be reviewed annually – that American intelligence agencies would not have indiscriminate access to Europeans’ digital data when it is sent across the Atlantic, the Times reported.

    Despite this, many obstacles remain, including the reality that national data protection regulators have not given their support to the pact, and European privacy-rights advocates and consumer groups said they are preparing to file legal challenges seeking to overturn it, according to the Times. The pact must be officially approved by the EU's 28 member states before it can become law.

    Both sides are said to be completing the details of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement, the Times reported. If formally approved, it will go into effect by early April.



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