Monday

16th Jul 2018

EU questions decade-old US data agreement

  • Reding says US surveillance allegations is a "wake up call" for stronger data protection legislation. (Photo: eu2013.lt)

The European Commission is casting doubts on a 13-year old data sharing agreement with the United States.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Friday (19 July) told reporters in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius her services will be reviewing the so-called Safe Harbor Agreement.

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.

... our join as a group

“We do have the impression that the Safe Harbor Agreement, might not be so safe, after all,” she said.

The agreement was hammered out in 2000 between the US department of commerce and the European Commission, based on a clause in the current 1995 EU Data Protection Directive.

The around 3,000 companies that have voluntarily signed up follow a binding set of data transfer rules between the US and EU based on seven principles - notice, choice, onward transfer, security, integrity, access, and enforcement.

The low data protection standards built into the agreement is possibly a loophole, noted Reding.

“I’m working on a solid assessment of the Safe Harbor Agreement and I will present this assessment before the end of the year,” she said.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces Safe Harbor.

Some European data protection authorities have also expressed their doubts the agreement.

German deputy privacy commissioner Marit Hansen of Schleswig-Holstein’s data protection authority says the rules are seldom enforced in substance.

“I assume that if I write to a company as a data protection authority ‘you are in Safe Harbor please give some information on these principles and how you implement them in your business’ they will answer. So far no one was able to answer my question because they are not prepared to do that,’ she told this website in April.

In 2010, the US consultancy company Galexia found a number of irregularities in the agreement.

They noted in a report that 200 companies claimed to have joined the agreement without ever having done so. They also found only 350 companies which complied with the minimum standards of the agreement and that only one court case had been issued in over a ten-year period.

The FTC has since been more proactive and has issued twenty year consent orders on Twitter, Google, Facebook and MySpace which require them to be regularly audited.

In November last year, the FTC required Google to pay out $22.5 million over claims the Internet giant planted cookies on Apple’s Safari Internet browser.

Reding’s announcement on Safe Harbor follows a morning session of informal discussions with EU ministers of interior, which also touched upon the EU data protection regulation and the post-Stockholm programme on future justice priorities.

The on-going media revelations about the US Prism surveillance programme has provided extra new incentives for legislators to finalise negotiations on the data protection regulation and its adjoining directive.

Both policies aim to harmonise data protection rules throughout the EU but have suffered numerous setbacks as euro-deputies struggle to reach compromises on the 4,000 or so amendments.

German and French ministers in a joint-letter said the legislative data reforms need to advance with an aim to finalise negotiations between the European parliament and member states before the end of the Lithuanian EU Presidency.

“The justice ministers of the two countries signed a joint declaration saying that we need a high level of data protection for European citizens, which strikes the right balance between freedom and security,” said Reding.

She urged other ministers to demonstrate a similar drive to turn the data reforms into a binding EU law.

EU data protection rules 'on schedule' despite delay

Despite not having begun formal deliberations in committee, the European Parliament is on course to define its position on the EU's new data protection regime by mid-2013, according to data privacy expert Sophie In't Veld.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Polish PM defends judicial witch-hunt

Poland's judicial purge was meant to punish former communists, its PM has said, in an angry EU debate that saw him ultimately promise to respect EU court rulings.

EU leaders still in search of migration plan

Select EU leaders met amid rising tension over migration, with Italy's PM, who had threatened to boycott the summit, putting forward a new plans to stop boats from leaving Libya.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. VW owners to get diesel software update free until 2020
  2. Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, Commission says
  3. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  4. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  5. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  6. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  7. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  8. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  2. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  3. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  4. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  5. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  6. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  7. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit
  8. Trump wades into Brexit after Nato fiasco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us