The European Union and the US have reached an eleventh-hour deal on data transfer and privacy rules to replace the Safe Harbour agreement ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice in October last year.
The sudden and unexpected judgment had thrown organisations large and small into a quandary about how they might deal with the consequences, should the EU and US fail to come to a new agreement.
The draft EU-US Privacy Shield framework was announced late yesterday, with EU justice commissioner Věra Jourová promising that a full draft agreement will be released in the next few weeks – possibly before the end of February. That will contain the finer points of the deal.
One of the concessions from the US was the creation of a “special ombudsman” with the authority to investigate privacy complaints from EU citizens. The EU would also hold an annual joint review with the US Federal Trade Commission that would examine national security exemptions. This comes on top of assurances from the US government.
“The US has clarified that they do not carry out indiscriminate mass surveillance of European citizens,” said European Commission vice president Andrus Ansip.
Bojana Bellamy, president of law firm Hunton & Williams’s Centre for Information Policy Leadership, said that the deal meant, effectively, that it was pretty much business-as-usual for Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other internet businesses, although they may need to adapt some of their practices.”The EU-US Privacy Shield agreement will no doubt mean more work for businesses, as they examine the new deal and what they have to do to implement the new rules in practice. Certainly, there will be more practical obligations for businesses to use data of Europeans responsibly and respect privacy rights of Europeans,” said Bellamy.
She continued: “Europeans will also have more rights in the US… But, more importantly, Europeans will also have rights against surveillance practices by US government agencies in the context of national security. This was a major step for the US to agree and good for them for doing so! It should put to bed the post-Snowden concerns that Europeans did not have any rights in the US against government surveillance.”
However, Snowden himself was less impressed with the deal. “EU capitulates totally on #SafeHarbor. Interesting, given that they held all the cards,” he initially tweeted, before following up: “It’s not a ‘Privacy Shield’, it’s an accountability shield. Never seen a policy agreement so universally criticised.”
SEE ALSO:Analysis: “The Safe Harbour stand-off: views down the barrel of a gun”, by John Leonard