Wednesday

18th Oct 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

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.

Investigation

EU states copy Israel's 'predictive policing'

Israelis are using social profiling and predictive policing, also known as 'Facebook arrests', to crack down on suspects in Palestinian territories. National authorities in the EU, including the EU's police agency, Europol, are now applying the tactics closer to home.

News in Brief

  1. EU food safety chief denies keeping studies 'secret'
  2. EU states pledge 24,000 resettlement places so far
  3. US ready for arms sale to update Greece's F-16 fleet
  4. Austria's Green leaders step down following election failure
  5. Icelandic journalists protest ban on reporting PM's finances
  6. UK to begin registering EU nationals by end of 2018
  7. EU countries want compensation from Israel in Palestine
  8. Spanish Court declares Catalan referendum law void

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year