EU-US data pact faces first test of cred­i­bil­ity Pri­vacy Shield in force for a year

Kuwait Times - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

A pact un­der­pin­ning bil­lions of dol­lars of transat­lantic data trans­fers will un­dergo its first an­nual re­view to­mor­row, with Europe seek­ing to en­sure Wash­ing­ton has lived up to its prom­ises to pro­tect the data of Euro­pean cit­i­zens stored on US servers. Feted as a mile­stone in transat­lantic re­la­tions, which had soured af­ter rev­e­la­tions of mass US sur­veil­lance four years ago, the EU-US Pri­vacy Shield data pact has been in place for just over a year.

It was ham­mered out af­ter the Euro­pean Union’s top court struck down a pre­vi­ous data trans­fer pact in 2015 be­cause it al­lowed US spies ex­ces­sive ac­cess to peo­ple’s data, plung­ing ev­ery­day cross-bor­der data trans­fers into le­gal limbo. How­ever, it is al­ready sub­ject to two le­gal chal­lenges in Euro­pean courts on the grounds that it does not of­fer ad­e­quate pri­vacy pro­tec­tions for Euro­pean cit­i­zens’ data, and EU data pro­tec­tion watch­dogs have also ex­pressed mis­giv­ings.

The first an­nual re­view tak­ing place to­mor­row and Tues­day will be an op­por­tu­nity for the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which ne­go­ti­ated the Pri­vacy Shield, to en­sure it is func­tion­ing well and that the US ad­min­is­tra­tion is keep­ing its part of the deal. “My ex­pec­ta­tion is that we will find Pri­vacy Shield func­tion­ing, we might find some space or room for im­prove­ment,” Vera Jourova, EU Jus­tice Com­mis­sioner, told Reuters in an in­ter­view.

The Pri­vacy Shield seeks to strengthen the pro­tec­tion of Euro­peans whose data is moved to US servers by giv­ing EU cit­i­zens greater means to seek re­dress in case of dis­putes, in­clud­ing through a new pri­vacy om­buds­man within the State Depart­ment who will deal with com­plaints from EU cit­i­zens about US spy­ing. How­ever a new om­buds­man has not been ap­pointed un­der the new US ad­min­is­tra­tion, some­thing Jourova said she will push for. Com­pa­nies want­ing to trans­fer Euro­peans’ per­sonal data out­side the bloc have to com­ply with tough EU data pro­tec­tion rules which for­bid them from trans­fer­ring per­sonal data to coun­tries deemed to have in­ad­e­quate pri­vacy pro­tec­tions un­less they have spe­cial le­gal con­tracts in place.

The Pri­vacy Shield al­lows firms to move data across the At­lantic with­out re­ly­ing on such con­tracts, known as model clauses, which are more cum­ber­some and ex­pen­sive. Over 2,400 com­pa­nies are signed up to the scheme in­clud­ing Al­pha­bet Inc’s Google, Face­book and Mi­crosoft. “Vir­tu­ally ev­ery trans­ac­tion in the tril­lion-euro transat­lantic trade re­la­tion­ship, from the move­ment of ser­vices and cap­i­tal to the move­ment of goods and peo­ple, heav­ily re­lies on the trans­fer of data be­tween the EU and US,” said Thomas Boue, Direc­tor Gen­eral, Pol­icy, EMEA for BSA, which rep­re­sents the likes of Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft and IBM.

The Com­mis­sion is also seek­ing to find out fig­ures for how many re­quests for peo­ple’s data com­pa­nies had re­ceived from US au­thor­i­ties. “The mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion was how many times they were asked by the na­tional se­cret ser­vice,” Jourova said. “This is of big rel­e­vance for as­sess­ing whether Pri­vacy Shield is suc­cess­ful.” The Com­mis­sion will pro­duce a re­port with its con­clu­sions on the re­view of the Pri­vacy Shield in Oc­to­ber. — Reuters

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