Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Focus

Data flows to US will continue despite EU court ruling

  • Microchips: 'Transatlantic data flows are the backbone of our economy', Jourova said (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

The European Commission on Tuesday (6 October) said the transfer of data between the EU and US will continue in light of a European court judgment.

Frans Timmermans, the EU commission vice president, said transatlantic data flows between companies will not stop.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He told reporters in Strasbourg that “other mechanisms for international transfers of personal data” are available.

Timmermans’ announcement follows a judgment by the European Court of Justice on Tuesday against the so-called Safe Harbour agreement.

The Luxembourg-based judges said US companies under the regime are unable to guarantee an adequate level of protection of data of EU citizens transferred to the US.

Safe Harbour is an executive decision by the European Commission. It means that the Brussels-executive determined in 2000 that the US provides an adequate level of protection of EU citizen data.

But the 15-year old pact has come under intense scrutiny following 2013 media revelations that US intelligence services had direct access to the data of EU citizens from big American companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google.

The judges said indiscriminate and mass collection of people’s personal data violates fundamental rights to privacy and that national data authorities should be empowered to investigate abuse.

Edward Snowden, the exiled US whistleblower behind the surveillance leaks, in a tweet wrote “Europe’s high court just struck down a major law routinely abused for surveillance. We are all safer as a result".

ECJ president retires

Internal issues at the Luxembourg-based court may have also helped speed up the judgment. The Court’s president Vassilios Skouris, who sat in on the landmark case, retires tomorrow.

The panel of judges issued their verdict around two weeks after the Court’s advocate-general published his opinion.

A contact at the Court said the procedure was unusually fast. But he noted that even without the president, “the court would still have been queried”.

Safe Harbour not suspended

The Commission on Tuesday did not suspend Safe Harbour due, in part, to ongoing talks with their US counterparts for a new-model agreement.

“It is important that transatlantic data flows can continue, as they are the backbone of our economy”, said EU commissioner for justice Vera Jourova.

The estimated value of EU citizens' data was €315 billion a year in 2011. The figure is projected to increase to €1 trillion by 2020.

The two sides have been discussing Commission recommendations on how to improve the pact for almost two years. Jourova wanted it finalised before the summer but the US refuses to budge on national security exemptions.

She declined to give any new dates when asked.

Contract clauses and binding corporate rules

Other options remain on how to get data to the US.

It includes standard data protection clauses in contracts between companies exchanging data and binding corporate rules for transfers within a corporate group.

Both already make up the bulk of the transfers to the US, according to German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht.

“The difference is that we are no longer talking about a basic assumption of adequacy, which was adopted by the commission in 2000”, he said.

Albrecht, who recently steered data protection reforms through the parliament, said the US has to protect the data if they want US companies to have equal access to the European digital market.

“That is the whole issue”, he said.

The industry, for its part, is not happy with the Court’s decision.

The American Chamber of Commerce in the EU in a statement said scrapping Safe Harbour could disrupt transatlantic business, hurt the EU economy, and jeopardise a digital single market.

Tech giant IBM also said the ruling jeopardises data flows and creates "significant commercial uncertainty at a time when many European economies remain fragile."

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Agenda

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us