European Parliament Turns Up The Pressure On US-EU Privacy Shield Data Transfer Deal A Little More

from the how-much-longer-can-it-last? dept

Many stories on Techdirt seem to grind on forever, with new twists and turns constantly appearing, including unexpected developments -- or small, incremental changes. The transatlantic data transfer saga has seen a bit of both. Back in 2015, the EU's top court ruled that the existing legal framework for moving data across the Atlantic, Safe Harbor, was "invalid". That sounds mild, but it isn't. Safe Harbor was necessary in order for data transfers across the Atlantic to comply with EU data protection laws. A declaration that it was "invalid" meant that it could no longer be used to provide legal cover for huge numbers of commercial data flows that keep the Internet and e-commerce ticking over. The solution was to come up with a replacement, Privacy Shield, that supposedly addressed the shortcomings cited by the EU court.

The problem is that a growing number of influential voices don't believe that Privacy Shield does, in fact, solve the problems of the Safe Harbor deal. For example, in March last year, two leading civil liberties groups -- the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch -- sent a joint letter to the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, and other leading members of the European Commission and Parliament, urging the EU to re-examine the Privacy Shield agreement. In December, an obscure but influential advisory group of EU data protection officials asked the US to fix problems of Privacy Shield or expect the EU's top court to be asked to rule on its validity. In April of this year, the Irish High Court made just such a referral as a result of a complaint by the Austrian privacy expert Max Schrems. Since he was instrumental in getting Safe Harbor struck down, that's not something to be taken lightly.

Lastly, one of the European Parliament's powerful committees, which helps determine policy related to civil liberties, added its voice to the discussion. It called on the European Commission to suspend the Privacy Shield agreement unless the US fixed the problems that the committee discerned in its current implementation. At that point, it was just a committee making the call. However, in a recent plenary session, the European Parliament itself voted to back the idea, and by a healthy margin:

MEPs call on the EU Commission to suspend the EU-US Privacy Shield as it fails to provide enough data protection for EU citizens.

The data exchange deal should be suspended unless the US complies with EU data protection rules by 1 September 2018, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Thursday by 303 votes to 223, with 29 abstentions. MEPs add that the deal should remain suspended until the US authorities comply with its terms in full.

It's important to note that this vote is largely symbolic: if the US refuses to improve the data protection of EU citizens, there's nothing to force the European Commission to comply with the demand of the European Parliament. That said, the call by arguably the most democratic part of the EU -- MEPs are directly elected by European citizens -- piles more pressure on the European Commission, which is appointed by EU governments, not elected. If nothing else, this latest move adds to the general impression that Privacy Shield is not likely to survive in its present form much longer.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Jul 2018 @ 5:45am

    If the only thing you think is about collecting it all, laws and rights be damned, you shouldn't be surprised when others decide you can't be trusted. I'm hoping the next president and Congress actually do something to stop this shit in the US. I had the opportunity of spending time with Americans and they are generally good people. They don't deserve the hatred and suspicion the world places upon the US due to their shitty governments.

    Even if you say "vote" it's hard to vote right when you have that electoral college (whatever you call it) and when politicians mislead and obfuscate information.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2018 @ 6:29am

    why the EU is doing this, i dont know, glad, but dont know. considering how they have just tried to break the internet with the ridiculous link tax and tried to hand, basically, the internet over to the entertainment industries, while allowing those industries to surveill and track almost anyone and everyone, whenever they like, then hand info over to whichever govt wants it!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2018 @ 10:22am

    The present form

    If nothing else, this latest move adds to the general impression that Privacy Shield is not likely to survive in its present form much longer.

    What does this mean in practice? I'm not very familiar with European law. When they replaced "Safe Harbor" with "Privacy Shield" did Europeans benefit in any way? I.e., was their privacy actually protected more than before? I didn't notice any major shift toward privacy from Facebook.

    It seems to me like the legislators just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic, and it took a few years for the courts to catch up. What stops them from doing it again and introducing the "Confidentiality Skirt" agreement, which lets companies keep doing the same shit till the courts strike it down in 2021? (But don't worry, it will have been replaced by "Security Blanket" by then.)

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Jul 2018 @ 12:08pm

    Always wondered..

    Just an aside..

    Always wonder why the USA does not look at other nations, countries and so forth, as an example of what to do, and What works/WHAT does not work..
    Its like the reasoning of Making certain things illegal as other countries find few problems with them, or Better solutions then to PUT PEOPLE IN JAIL..for years and years..

    I like the idea of finding an Honest man/women to do something...but require little of those we hire for public offices. WE ask/require allot of the lower classes, we even teach it WITH HEART, all their lives that we WANT them to be honest and true..
    And when they break the law, we put them in jails..But when we find a person of high position doing a bad thing, they end up BETTER OFF, most times.. how many of the rich have REALLY gone poor? They have better work contracts then the poor. AND GET the better drugs..

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2018 @ 12:42pm

      Re: Always wondered..

      Always wonder why the USA does not look at other nations, countries and so forth, as an example of what to do, and What works/WHAT does not work..

      FWIW, that was the premise of the American documentary Where to Invade Next.

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


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