Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

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

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 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 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.

Germany led way on EU rights protection

Germany led the way on protection of human rights this year, but Hungary, Italy, and Poland "undermined the EU's moral standing" on the world stage, a leading NGO said.

News in Brief

  1. EU hits Mastercard with €570m fine
  2. Romanian minister prepares to cancel corruption cases
  3. Sefcovic: no gas supply problems this winter
  4. Report: Commission warning on passport-sale schemes
  5. France summons Italian ambassador over colonial remark
  6. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  7. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  8. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. May pushes defeated Brexit deal, offers no Plan B
  2. European Parliament targets 'fake' political groups
  3. What is fate of non-euro EU states after Brexit?
  4. Turkish NBA star takes on Erdogan
  5. 'Meme ban' still on table in EU copyright bill, says MEP
  6. Brexit power grab by MPs hangs over May's 'Plan B'
  7. Polish mayor's funeral marred by Tusk TV dispute
  8. Salvini and Kaczynski - the new 'axis' powers?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us