Brussels has given the green light to a landmark EU-US data sharing agreement over a year after it entered into force, in the face of fresh legal challenges over vital cross-border data flows.
In its first review of the pact known as the “Privacy Shield”, the EU said the deal had provided European citizens with “adequate protection” when their data was being handled by US companies since August last year.
Over 2,400 US firms – including Microsoft and Google – have signed up to the pact which allows them to legally transfer everything from pictures to payslips across the Atlantic without breaching the EU’s robust laws on personal privacy. Privacy Shield came into force last summer after Europe’s highest court struck down the previous arrangement known as Safe Harbour over snooping concerns from US intelligence services.
Still, Brussels said there was room for improvement under Privacy Shield. It called on Donald Trump’s administration to speed up the process of appointing key independent ombudsman to oversee the pact and listen to European citizens’ complaints. The EU also wants the new president to provide assurances over a planned revamp of the US’s “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”.
Vera Jourova, EU commissioner for justice, said on Wednesday :
Our first review shows that the Privacy Shield works well, but there is some room for improving its implementation. The Privacy Shield is not a document lying in a drawer. It’s a living arrangement that both the EU and US must actively monitor to ensure we keep guard over our high data protection standards.
The EU’s tough data protection laws have led to a number of major court cases which call into question the viability of any commercial data flows outside the continent. The European Court of Justice will be ruling on another data transfer method used by companies such as Facebook – known as model clauses – after a legal challenge in Ireland.
Privacy Shield allows EU citizens to complain to national and US authorities if they believe their personal data is being abused. Despite the emphasis on this “redress” mechanism when the pact was drawn up, there were no complaints from any citizens in the first year of the pact, said Ms Jourova.
Get alerts on US when a new story is published