Sunday

26th May 2019

EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy

  • Trump has issued executive orders that go against privacy (Photo: Reuters)

The EU's commissioner for justice, Vera Jourova, is in Washington DC to prevent privacy safeguards for European citizens from unravelling.

European privacy in personal data sent to the United States is supposed to be maintained under the EU-US Privacy Shield accord, which was launched last summer.

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 commitments the US has taken must be respected, she [Jourova] has been very clear already on this and also publicly," said Paul Nemitz, a senior EU commission official on Wednesday (29 March) at the RightsCon digital conference in Brussels.

Around 1,800 companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, are self-certified under the scheme.

This means they are supposed to respect EU-level protection standards whenever the personal data of EU citizens is in the US.

But US authorities have failed so far to adhere to the terms of the agreement, while the US administration, under president Donald Trump, is rolling back privacy safeguards and stepping up surveillance through executive orders.

"Privacy Shield is on shaky ground, in part because some of the foundations of Privacy Shield are being undercut," said Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based NGO.

Jourova is hoping to address some of those issues following meetings this week with the US attorney general, the US secretary of commerce, and the US federal trade commissioner, among others.

US failures

The Privacy Shield terms had included a key oversight board in the US to ensure that the personal data of EU citizens is not abused. The five-member board has four vacancies.

The US was also supposed to set up a permanent ombudsperson, to whom EU citizens can file complaints if they believe their rights have been violated. Instead, the US has appointed an "acting" ombudsperson.

The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the Privacy Shield, has three of its five seats vacant.

Former US president Barack Obama's presidential policy directive (PPD-28), on signals intelligence, is also being undermined. Obama's directive had limited the amount of data intelligence that can be collected and processed.

But Trump's picks for CIA director and US attorney general have both gone on record opposing PPD-28.

Trump had also issued an executive order that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to share raw surveillance intelligence data with 16 other government agencies without any oversight from the courts.

Privacy campaigners in the US are hoping that upcoming debates on the NSA's section 702 on foreign intelligence gathering will shift the mood in Congress.

"It [debates] can make a difference in the US Congress in limiting the scope of the surveillance to make it more likely the Privacy Shield would actually survive," said Nojeim.

Section 702 is set to expire at the end of the year.

But the effort may prove difficult, given that, earlier this week, the US Congress decided to repeal another set of of Obama-era broadband privacy rules. Those rules aimed to protect the privacy of US customers.

Court cases

Privacy Shield is also facing mounting criticism in Europe.

"It is amazing to see how Privacy Shield allows US companies to be on the European market with substantially lower protections that any European companies," said Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems.

"It is absurd that the European Union agrees to it because it allows Google to be in competition [with] a European company, without following the same rules," he added.

Last October, a privacy advocacy group, Digital Rights Ireland, launched national court proceedings against it.

The case was followed a week later by a second challenge from the Paris-based privacy advocacy group, La Quadrature du Net.

The French group is lodging their case directly with the General Court at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Trump's anti-privacy order stirs EU angst

The EU commission has said data-sharing pacts with the US will stay in place despite Donald Trump's decision to strip EU nationals of protection.

US tests EU patience over Privacy Shield

The data sharing pact with the US is yet to be fully implemented, as the Americans have failed to appoint people in key positions to ensure EU citizens' personal data is protected.

Agenda

Brexit, Syria and Greece on the agenda This WEEK

The European Parliament will adopt its position on the UK's exit, and eurozone finance ministers will try to break a deadlock on the Greek bailout talks. Meanwhile in Brussels, there will be discussions on ending the war in Syria.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Belgium votes in hybrid EU-national election
  2. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  3. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  4. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  5. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  6. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  7. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  8. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us