German Data Protection Commissioners Take Action Against EU Data Transfers To US Under 'Safe Harbor' Program
from the more-confrontational dept
We pointed out last year that one of the knock-on effects of Edward Snowden’s revelations about massive NSA (and GCHQ) spying on Europeans was a call to suspend the economically-critical Safe Harbor program. Without Safe Harbor, it would be illegal under European law for companies like Google and Facebook to take EU citizens’ personal data outside the EU, which would make it more difficult to run those services in their present form. Nothing much happened after that call by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee — not least because it does not have any direct power to formulate EU policy — but the unhappiness with Safe Harbor has evidently not gone away.
Heise Online reports that two of Germany’s data protection commissioners — those for the cities of Berlin and Bremen — have started proceedings against the transfer of data to the US under the Safe Harbor agreement (original in German.) This seems to represent a hardening of their position. The Heise article quotes another data protection commissioner, this time for the city of Hamburg, as saying that the mood among his colleagues was more confrontational now. Similarly, the commissioner for Berlin commented:
“In my view, Safe Harbor is dead if essential improvements aren’t found.”
Whether the US authorities will be willing to make of those improvements, or whether they might just hope the European public’s dependence on Google and Facebook will prevent drastic action being taken by the EU, remains unclear. Complicating matters still further is a separate argument about whether data flows should be included in the various trade negotiations involving the US and the European Union. The latest move by German data protection commissioners is unlikely to make resolving these issues any easier.