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Ansip and Jourová present new EU-US data sharing agreement

Google's data storage facility in the United States
Google's data storage facility in the United States Source: (AP/Scanpix)

On Tuesday the European Commission presented its new agreement over data sharing with the United States. The EU-US Privacy Shield will replace the Safe Harbor Principles, which were declared invalid by the European Court of Justice, and has already provoked heavy criticism.

On Tuesday EU Commissioners Věra Jourová (Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality) and Andrus Ansip (Digital Single Market) introduced the result of talks with the US authorities. The new agreement would bring increased legal security for thousands of European companies, which would mean better data security and the protection of the data of individual consumers, the commissioners said.

The EU-US Privacy Shield is based on assurances that the US Department of Commerce will keep all companies under surveillance that process data coming in from Europe. Companies that don’t adhere to the new standards will risk sanctions.

The European Court of Justice found the Safe Harbor Principles previously in force to be insufficient in a decision of October last year. This followed a complaint by Austrian Facebook user Max Schrems, who “in the light of the revelations made in 2013 by Edward Snowden concerning the activities of the United States intelligence services” maintained that the law and practice of the United States didn’t offer sufficient protection against surveillance by those services.

Under the terms of the EU-US Privacy Shield, an ombudsman will decide whether or not the intelligence services should have access. This is to be based on assurances by US Secretary of State John Kerry that the ombudsman is independent from all US intelligence services.

The agreement has not yet been signed and is subject to review by the European Parliament. The parties are now working on its precise terms.

The deal has been heavily criticized. The main concern of its opponents is the fact that the US offer nothing more than letters of assurance that they will uphold their end of the agreement. That the US intelligence services will be denied broader access to European data is not part of any binding agreement or treaty to be signed.

MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht (European Green Party) called the EU-US Privacy Shield “a joke” and said that simply renaming the existing principles wouldn’t do. He also pointed out that there was nothing in the new agreement that would keep it from being declared invalid by the European Court of Justice.

Max Schrems, who had complained to the same court, said that “a series of assurances by the US government in no way represent a sufficient guarantee of the fundamental rights of hundreds of millions of Europeans.”

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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