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Privacy Shield Faces Second Legal Challenge From French Privacy Advocacy Group

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A second group of privacy campaigners join legal challenge to US-European Privacy Shield agreement

The unhappiness with the European Commission’s Privacy Shield data framework, the recently agreed replacement of the EU-US Safe Harbour deal that had been in place since 2000, continues to grow.

A second legal challenge to the agreement has come from a group of French organisations, citing concerns about the safeguards from US intelligence gathering.

Second Challenge

Earlier this week Digital Rights Ireland (DRI), a digital rights lobbying and advocacy NGO, filed a legal objection with Europe’s second highest court, the Luxembourg-based General Court.

This is the lower court of the Court of Justice of the European Union or ECJ, which in October 2015 had struck down the original data sharing (Safe Habour) deal with the United States that had lasted fifteen years.

Now a number of French groups have also challenged the adoption of the new Privacy shield agreement, which came into force in July.

The challenge comes from privacy advocacy group La Quadrature du Net; non-profit ISP French Data Network; and the Federation FDN industry association, all of which added a legal challenge to the scheme.

It could take the European court a year or more before it rules on the case, and the whole challenge could be thrown out and declared inadmissible if the court finds the Privacy Shield is not of direct concern to these challengers.

Independent Ombudsman?

Edward Snowden privacy protest NSA US Washington © Rena Schild ShutterstockIt is clear that data-sharing agreements with the United States remains a major concern for privacy groups, following the revelations of the NSA spying activities as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The replacement Privacy Shield did not experience an easy ride, signalling the deep distrust now on the European side.

Indeed, the United States and the European Union were forced to change it after an initial agreement submitted in February was rejected by European Watchdogs for not being robust enough.

The two sides then agreed to stricter rules for companies holding information on Europeans and clearer limits on US surveillance. And this reworked Privacy Shield agreement was then approved by EU member states and adopted in July.

It has already been adopted by technology giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, among others.

European concern continue however over aspects of the deal. In this case the concerns centres on the “privacy ombudsman” within the US State Department who has to handle European complaints about US spying.

The French groups, according to Reuters, claim this US ombudsman is not an effective mechanism for dealing with complaints.

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