EU-US data pact faces first ma­jor test of cred­i­bil­ity

Arab News - - BUSINESS -

BRUS­SELS: A pact un­der­pin­ning bil­lions of dol­lars of transat­lantic data trans­fers will un­dergo its first an­nual re­view on Monday, 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 EU’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 on Monday 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.

Face­book was fined €1.2 mil­lion this month by a Span­ish data watch­dog for break­ing pri­vacy laws. The first an­nual re­view of the EU-US Pri­vacy Shield data pact will take place this week. (AFP)

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