Monday

19th Nov 2018

Focus

EU data chiefs failed to report US privacy complaints

  • Anti-snooping mural in London (Photo: nolifebeforecoffee)

The US top privacy enforcer Jessica Rich on Wednesday (21 October) said EU national data protection authorities did little to help crack down on violations under Safe Harbour.

Rich is the bureau director at the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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

The FTC oversaw Safe Harbour, an invalidated 15-year old scheme that was supposed to make sure US firms applied European privacy standards when dealing with the personal data of EU citizens.

Rich said European national data authorities were supposed to alert the FTC of any possible violations under the scheme but they seldom did.

“During the entire time we were enforcing the Safe Harbour, we had gotten only four referrals”, she told reporters in Brussels.

Rich said she had met and asked her European counterparts at various conferences to send the FTC complaints but her advice was not followed.

“The referral process was not working and at a certain point, we decided to start looking for Safe Harbour violations ourselves”, she said.

One independent study found hundreds of US firms had made false claims they belonged to self-certification scheme.

Rich said the FTC acted on some of them after being informed.

The FTC had filed 40 cases over the 15 years. All were settled out of court.

“We alleged a couple of years ago that Google violated its order and in fact it then paid a $22.5 million penalty”, she said.

Max Schrems

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg earlier this month scrapped the pact following a lengthy legal battle between Facebook and Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems.

Schrems had initially filed a complaint with Ireland’s data protection commissioner but was told his case was “frivolous”. He then took it to Ireland's high court, which referred the case to Luxembourg.

Schrems had said Facebook, which has its international headquarters based in Dublin, could not guarantee the privacy of his data stored in the United States because of US-led mass surveillance.

The 29-year old PhD student told this website that it is an issue of European data protection authorities “not doing their jobs in all countries properly”.

“I just know that the Irish have a memorandum of understanding with the FTC so apparently they know each other and even there they were not able to refer my complaint”, he said.

Safe Harbour 2.0

Several thousand US firms, including giants like Apple, Facebook, Google, had signed up to Safe Harbour.

With the agreement now scrapped, many are faced with a legal dilemma on how transfer and process data from the EU.

Those who relied only on Safe Harbour will now have to use alternative transfer methods like model contractual clauses. Model contracts, which contain data protection provisions, have to be either approved by an EU data protection authority or the European Commission.

Meanwhile, the European commission and its US counterparts have spent the past two years negotiating a new Safe Harbour agreement.

The Brussels-executive had issued 13 recommendations for the US but the Americans refuse to budge on national security issues.

The FTC is negotiating the points related to commerce but Rich refrained from discussing the national security aspects of the talks.

Schrems, for his part, said he doubts a new Safe Harbour will change anything.

“If we find an agreement, it is very likely that the Safe Harbour will be challenged in the court again,” he said.

He is now looking at other companies alleged to have collaborated with the US National Security Agency in the lead up to the mass surveillance revelations in 2013 “just to see if we get cases rolling there”.

“This is not a bashing the US case, this is a mass surveillance issue", he said.

EU imposes deadline for new US data pact

The European Commission is using the European Court of Justice ruling on Safe Harbour as a leverage to get a new deal with American authorities.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland extradites Polish man despite rule of law concerns
  2. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  3. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  4. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  5. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  6. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  7. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  8. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  2. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  3. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  4. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  5. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  6. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  7. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  8. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us