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.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 3:15am

    If the Germans are spying on their own people and passing it to the NSA anyway why does it when matter?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drewf (profile), 16 Feb 2015 @ 8:21pm

    Change to Safe Harbor

    I believe the question this article poses is will the European politicians decide to change Safe Harbor?

    To most Europeans, the United States reflects the real world realization of all of the horrors depicted innovels like 1984: the penultimate surveillance state. I believe research shows sweeping majorities of Europeans believe this .

    If this is true European politicians, like American politicians will chase votes . Votes can be found in supporting popular opinion through legislation. I think you will find very soon that EU lawmakers propose a very restricted or complete elimination of safe Harbor.

    What impact will that have on American tech firms? Everybody will lose and win in different ways. For example, a company like Hewlett-Packard might gain by selling more servers which will be required to host the data locally. A company like Google, over the short-term me may pay dearly--it will have to host even more of its ervers locally. O

    However, over the long term even Google may benefit. The added diversity, increased input of European residents consumer thoughts, more European spirit will be incorporated in its product. This usually results in undressed competitiveness which in turn most often leads to increased profits.

    whether it's European citizens, American citizens, or global free enterprise, I believe everyone stands to gain from a limitation or restriction of safe Harbor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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