EU strikes new data transfer deal with US

BRUSSELS • The European Union (EU) and the United States have struck a new deal on data transfers relied on by Facebook and Google, after Europe's top court struck down the previous pact for failing to protect users from US spying.

The "Privacy Shield" agreement, which replaces the 16-year-old Safe Harbour arrangement, allows firms to transfer European citizens' personal information to the US, which was ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice last October in the wake of the snooping practices exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked a hoard of intelligence documents.

"I'm glad to announce... we have finalised negotiations with the US on a renewed and safe framework for transatlantic data flows," European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said on Tuesday.

"For the first time, the US has given the EU binding assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms," she said, adding that she expected the deal to take effect in about three months.

In Washington, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said: "Beyond being central to transatlantic commerce, this deal signals the closeness of the EU-US relationship."

OVERSIGHT MECHANISMS

For the first time,the US has given the EU binding assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms.

EUROPEAN JUSTICE COMMISSIONER VERA JOUROVA

Europeans would also benefit for the first time from "redress mechanisms" if their data was illegally accessed, said the European Commission, stressing the new arrangement allowed for annual reviews which would let the two sides tackle any new threats to privacy.

The commission said the deal gave Europeans the chance to raise any enquiry or complaint with a dedicated new watchdog.

Digital Europe - one of the top business groups in Europe that had warned of the fallout if a new deal was not swiftly agreed on - welcomed the arrangement.

But privacy campaigners - in addition to mocking the pact's new name and comic book-style logo - expressed concern that the new deal does not produce the necessary safeguards and warned the arrangement could end up back in court.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline 'EU strikes new data transfer deal with US'. Print Edition | Subscribe