Wednesday

19th Jan 2022

Privacy activists mount court challenge to EU-US data pact

  • EU US Privacy Shield was launched in July (Photo: nolifebeforecoffee)

An EU data transfer agreement with the US is facing a legal challenge over privacy issues at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Privacy advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland lodged the challenge in September at the lower General Court at the ECJ in a move likely to cast further doubts over a pact launched just two months ago.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The group refused to comment on the case, and court documents revealed little of the substance, but unnamed sources told Reuters news agency that it concerned the new EU-US Privacy Shield agreement.

The deal replaces a 15-year-old agreement that had been invalidated by the same Luxembourg-based court only last year. Some 4,000 US firms had signed up to the old pact, known as Safe Harbour.

A European Commission spokesperson told Reuters that it was "convinced that the Privacy Shield will live up to the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which has been the basis for the negotiations".

Privacy Shield underpins some €230 billion in cross-border trade in digital services. It is also designed to ensure rights of EU citizens are respected whenever their data is transferred to firms based in the United States.

The commission says the latest agreement is more transparent, better monitored, and allows EU nationals to file complaints with greater ease. US companies that sign up to the self-certifying agreement promise not to abuse the data.

US national security access

But outstanding issues over US national security access and bulk collection of data remain in Privacy Shield despite "written commitments and assurances" by US authorities.

Earlier this month Reuters revealed that Yahoo had received US government orders under a foreign spy law in 2015 to secretly scan emails belonging to hundreds of millions of users.

Those scans were being conducted when the EU commission and US authorities were still in talks on US national security access for the new data transfer pact.

Yahoo described the Reuters report as "misleading". The commission said Yahoo had not signed up to Privacy Shield.

Social media giant Facebook signed up to Privacy Shield earlier this month.

It was the initial legal challenge by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems against Facebook's Dublin-based headquarters tha helped trigger the demise of Privacy Shield's predecessor Safe Harbour.

Earlier this year he told reporters Privacy Shield wouldn't survive a legal challenge at the ECJ.

“The European Commission is jumping from one ice-floe to another. It knows it will sink sooner or later, but keeps jumping in the meantime," he said.

EU top court bins 'Privacy Shield' in Schrems privacy case

The EU's top court ruled that the EU-US data-transfer pact fails to protect EU citizens' rights to privacy - following a legal challenge from Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems against Facebook. Washington said it was "deeply disappointed" with the ruling.

EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy

Privacy safeguards for EU citizens' personal data that is sent to the United States remains exposed to abuse, due to the lack of oversight and the shift towards increased surveillance under president Trump.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. Michel to miss Strasbourg plenary due to Covid contact
  2. Kaczyński wanted for questions on political spying
  3. Blinken and Lavrov meet on Friday to discuss Ukraine
  4. Lobbyists had 613 meetings with MEPs on digital services act
  5. Breivik appeals for parole, 10 years after Norway massacre
  6. German chancellor takes tough stance on Russia pipeline
  7. MEPs keen to speed up green-transition fund for poor
  8. Political crimes reach two-decade high in Germany

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Latest News

  1. Tomorrow MEPs can end EU animal export horror show
  2. A EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present
  3. Metsola becomes youngest EU Parliament president
  4. EU navies to hunt pirates in West Africa
  5. Von der Leyen's pharma texts should be public, MEP says
  6. 'Hundreds' of Russian mercenaries in Mali, EU confirms
  7. Euro countries start haggling on fiscal rules
  8. New doubts raised on tracking ads ahead of key vote

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us