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.