Privacy Shield Gets Green Light From EU Governments

The protracted delivery of a new data sharing agreement between the United States and Europe could be reaching a conclusion.

This is because European member states have this week given their “strong support” for the reworked Privacy Shield agreement (otherwise known as Safe Harbour 2.0).

Green Light

The United States and the European Union agreed to changes to Safe Harbour 2.0 (or Privacy Shield), 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 agreement has now been approved by EU member states.

“Today Member States have given their strong support to the EU-US Privacy Shield, the renewed safe framework for transatlantic data flows,” said the EU in a statement. “This paves the way for the formal adoption of the legal texts and for getting the EU-US Privacy Shield up and running.

“The EU-US Privacy Shield will ensure a high level of protection for individuals and legal certainty for business,” it added. “It is fundamentally different from the old ‘Safe Harbour’.”

And the EU was keen to reassure that European citizen’s data will be protected and respected by US authorities.

“For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurance that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms and has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance of European citizens’ data,” it said. “And last but not least the Privacy Shield protects fundamental rights and provides for several accessible and affordable redress mechanisms.”

The EU Commission will formally adopt the Privacy Shield on Tuesday.

Protracted Process

The need for a new data sharing agreement between the EU and the US came about after the decision last October by Europe’s top court to strike down the original data sharing (Safe Habour) deal with the United States that had lasted fifteen years.

That decision came on the back of the NSA spying activities as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The proposed replacement arrived earlier this year and was called the Privacy Shield. That agreement was designed to help firms on both sides of the Atlantic to move the personal data of European citizens to the United States without breaking strict EU data transfer rules. But it failed to get the blessing of European data protection watchdogs, and they demanded much tougher regulations surrounding US surveillance practices.

In order to beef up the agreement, the US government explained the specific conditions under which intelligence services might have to collect data in bulk. They also detailed the safeguards on how the data would be used.

Meanwhile, the shock decision by British voters to exit the European Union, has left some businesses in the UK concerned about the way forward.

After the Brexit vote, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that for now the British Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result. But it also admitted that future data protection regulations will have to be as strong as those afforded by the EU if the UK wants to continue trading with the bloc once it leaves.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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