10 July 2016
By Tom O’Sullivan
Fine Gael Ireland South MEP, Deirdre Clune, has welcomed an agreement reached at EU level with the US, which puts a framework on transatlantic data flows. The agreement, called Privacy Shield replaces the Safe Harbour data deal, which collapsed owing to an EU Court of Justice ruling, following on from revelations from Edward Snowden that US intelligence agencies engaged in the bulk collection of communications data, sometimes working together with internet giants. Speaking as the deal was approved by EU member states on Friday July 8th, Clune described it as good for small business.
“This deal creates legal certainty for business, small business in particular that may need data for commercial reasons. At the same time, it imposes clear and strong obligations on companies that handle our data.
“Every time we go online, we leave a data footprint. Using online banking, supermarket loyalty cards and Facebook can allow companies to harvest a lot of important information about you. It is essential that there are rules in place governing the use of this data, but also in cases where it is transferred to the US from the EU.
“For the first time, the U.S. has given the EU written assurance that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms and has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance of European citizens’ data.
“The original EU-US data deal, Safe Harbour fell when Austrian Facebook user Maximillian Schrems lodged a complaint with the data protection authority in Ireland, where the company has its EU headquarters, saying the law and practice of the US did not offer his data sufficient protection against surveillance. The Irish data protection authority rejected his complaint, citing the Safe Harbour agreement, but the Irish High Court referred the issue to the European Court of Justice. The court finally invalidated Safe Harbour on 6 October 2015, citing the extent of mass surveillance in the US and the limited judicial redress available to people in the EU regarding such government surveillance.
“After the European Court of Justice invalidated Safe Harbour, the European Commission and the US had to negotiate a new agreement that addressed the court’s concerns. This new agreement, Privacy Shield, is the result of these negotiations. The aim was to prevent national data protection authorities from abruptly halting the flow of data from the EU to the US, which could have had grave economic consequences, in particular for small businesses.”