EU-U.S. Approve New Data Transfer Law

    Jul 26, 2016

    New rules governing data shared between the European Union and the United States will go into effect August 1, ending months of sometimes heated negotiations. Europe’s top court ruled against the previous Privacy Shield agreement over concerns about the surveillance activities of U.S. intelligence agencies.

    The EU and the United States say the new Privacy Shield places stricter obligations on American companies, including companies like Facebook and Google, to protect the personal data of individuals.

    EU concerns about U.S. surveillance of EU citizens proved a major hurdle during negotiations. As part of the deal, the U.S. government has promised that any access to personal data transferred under the new arrangements made by public authorities on national security grounds will be subject to “clear conditions, limitations, oversight, and preventing generalized access.”

    The deal requires companies to delete personal data when it no longer serves the original collection purpose and holds third-party processers to the same standards as privacy shield-certified companies, according to media reports.

    The new agreement also requires:

    • Stronger monitoring and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission, including increased cooperation with European authorities
    • An annual joint review of the pact
    • The appointment of an ombudsman based at the U.S. State Department, responsible for following up on European complaints of data misuse

    According to the Associated Press, many are hoping the deal will end the uncertainty for businesses following an October 2015 decision by the European Court of Justice that the previous Safe Harbor pact was invalid because it did not adequately protect consumers when their data was stored in the United States.

    “The adoption of Privacy Shield will enhance legal certainty for thousands of businesses on both sides of the Atlantic while providing an adequate level of protection for citizens’ data,” said Markus Beyrer, the director general of lobby group BusinessEurope.

    There are still critics, though, who argue that the new framework doesn’t go far enough, consumer protections are not strong enough, and the possibility of blanket surveillance from U.S. agencies remains.

    While some are predicting a legal challenge to the new agreement, both U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Vera Jourova, the European Commissioner for Justice, said they are confident the new deal will stand up in court. “My confidence stems from the fact that we have designed the rules of Privacy Shield based on the previous Court judgment,” Jourova told the AP.


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