Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Trump's anti-privacy order stirs EU angst

  • "We will be very strict assessors of the current decisions" taken by the US administration, EU commissioner Jourova said. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission wants guarantees that the Privacy Shield data pact with the US won't be dismantled following Donald Trump's decision to strip non-US citizens of protection.

"I need to be reassured that Privacy Shield can remain", EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova told EUobserver on Friday (27 January) in Malta.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Trump signed earlier this week an executive order on public security that eliminated privacy safeguards for foreigners.

It noted that "agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens."

Trump’s move sparked concerns that Privacy Shield, a recent EU-US data-sharing treaty, would no longer be fit to protect EU nationals’ information in the hands of US firms.

Jourova shed doubt on whether Trump's executive order would survive.

"There are basic principles which set the limits for the national security bodies for the access to the data," she said.

Jourova plans on meeting with her US counterparts, including Trump's secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, a 79-year old Wall Street multibillionaire. She also wants to discuss the issue with the new US attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

"I need to have reconfirmation that there is continuity and we will be very strict assessors of the current decisions because Privacy Shield is not a one-off decision, it is the mechanism where we have several American national authorities involved," said Jourova.

An annual report on how the agreement works in practice is set to be published in September.

Some 1,500 companies have signed up to the Shield over the past six months, including US technology giants Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

The Shield was put in place after the European Court of Justice scrapped a previous accord, called Safe Harbour, amid revelations of mass-scale US snooping in the EU.

The European Commission, in an emailed statement, had on Thursday said Trump's executive order would not change much because US Privacy Act never offered much protection in the first place.

"We are aware of the executive order on public safety. The US Privacy Act has never offered data protection rights to Europeans," a commission spokesperson had said in an email.

The commission added on Thursday that a separate data treaty, the so-called EU-US Umbrella Agreement, would also stay in place.

Set for launch in early February, the Umbrella accord governs privacy rights of EU nationals in EU-US police cooperation.

"To finalise this agreement the US Congress adopted a new law last year, the US Judicial Redress Act, which extends the benefits of the US Privacy Act to Europeans and gives them access to US courts," said the spokesperson.

Not everyone is convinced that the US will follow through on its commitments.

A Dutch liberal MEP, Sophie in‘t Veld, has said the chances of the Umbrella agreement being enacted in full by the US was "almost nil".

Edward Snowden, a former US intelligence contractor, who lifted the lid on US snooping in the EU, also said last September that Privacy Shield would not stop US services from poking around in Europeans’ private lives.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

News in Brief

  1. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  2. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  3. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  4. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  5. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  6. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks
  7. Nato moves summit forward so US can attend
  8. EU clears US chemical giants merger

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  2. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  3. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  4. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  5. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  7. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  8. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  9. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  11. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  12. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste