When the Safe Harbour arrangements were struck down the EU and US worked to create a replacement and flesh out the details of this new arrangement (see our last article on this issue here). We have all been somewhat nervously watching to see if the new ‘Privacy Shield’ would get final approval amid some criticism from some quarters. Good news, last Friday the EU member states on the Article 31 Committee voted to approve a revised Privacy Shield.
The new arrangement provides a welcome measure of certainty for businesses whose Trans-Atlantic data transfers have been left in legal limbo since the European Court of Justice declared the longstanding Safe Harbor Framework invalid in October 2015.
The European Commission has released a statement expressing their confidence in the adoption of the new Privacy Shield, noting that the new pact is “fundamentally different” from its predecessor. The new Privacy Shield imposes “clear and strong obligations on companies handling the data and makes sure that these rules are followed and enforced in practice”.
International tech industry groups have also praised the move as a win for both consumers and businesses as the pact provides robust consumer privacy protections. Voicing their support of the Privacy Shield, Microsoft released a detailed blog post on how the Privacy Shield is progress for privacy rights, declaring that the regime is an “important achievement for the privacy rights of citizens across Europe, and for companies across all industries that rely on international data flows to run their businesses and serve their customers”.
Whilst we are still at the early stages, companies should begin assessing the Privacy Shield’s impact on their existing agreements and also more broadly their data strategy, keeping in mind that the regime relates only to EU-US data transfers. In particular, consideration should be given to the transitional arrangements in the Privacy Shield. Companies should also be aware of the potential challenges to this regime (and related issues post-Brexit) as there is concern about the shelf life of the Privacy Shield.
The US and the European Union reportedly reached an agreement on the language of a key data transfer pact, including clearer limits on U.S. surveillance and stricter rules for companies holding information of Europeans. The updated EU-US Privacy Shield was sent to EU member states, who are expected to vote on the proposal in July. The revised data transfer pact is said to include stricter cross-border data-handling rules for companies using Europeans’ information for targeted online advertising, and also has detailed the specific condition under which U.S. government intelligence services would collect data in bulk and the safeguards on how the data is used.
Meanwhile, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant urged the EU’s member states to quickly sign off on the updated version, saying that the new framework for trans-Atlantic data transfer is critical for companies on both sides of the pond.
Further information regarding the report by Reuters can be read here.
The EU-US Privacy Shield data-sharing agreement has come under scrutiny from the European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli. Mr Buttarelli has expressed concerns that the Privacy Shield, which will outline how data (including personal information) should be handled in foreign jurisdictions, is “not robust enough to withstand future legal scrutiny”.
While Mr Buttarelli said he “appreciates” the efforts made to develop a solution to replace Safe Harbour, he emphasised that “significant improvements are needed should the European Commission wish to adopt an adequacy decision, to respect…the key data protection principles” which are afforded in Europe with particular regard to “necessity, proportionality and redress mechanisms”.
Giovanni Buttarelli’s statement regarding the Privacy Shield can be found here.
A new trans-Atlantic data transfer framework has been agreed between the European Commission and the United States this week. Known as the ‘EU-US Privacy Shield’, the new arrangement is intended to offer greater legal certainty for businesses and afford EU citizens increased protection when their data is transferred across the Atlantic to the US.
The new regulations will replace the US-EU Safe Harbor framework, which was invalidated by the European Court of Justice last October on the basis that the generalised access that public authorities had to the data and content of electronic communications violated fundamental privacy rights. Read our earlier blog post on the Safe Harbour decision here.
The key features of the new EU-US Privacy Shield are:
- Stronger obligations on US companies to protect the personal data of EU citizens
- More robust enforcement powers granted to both EU and US regulators, including greater monitoring and prosecution by the US Department of Commence and Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Clearer conditions, limitations, redress avenues and safeguards for data transferred across the Atlantic
- Expanded obligations for US companies to prove compliance
- Several new avenues for EU citizens to lodge complaints about data misuse, including the establishment of a new independent privacy Ombudsman
The new Privacy Shield is still awaiting final approval from the College of Commissioners and will be subject to further review by the Article 29 Working Party before it is introduced. Much of the detail has not been released, so while the principles have been articulated, the impact on the obligations of affected companies is still far from clear.
Read the European Commission press release here for further details.
Our US and EU colleagues have drafted a more detail description which can be accessed here for further information.