Monday 29 May 2017

Data privacy fears as Trump order threatens US-EU deal

Jan Philipp Albrecht said the move undermines transatlantic agreements on EU citizens' rights
Jan Philipp Albrecht said the move undermines transatlantic agreements on EU citizens' rights

Antonella Surfaro

European and US authorities have moved to prevent a gulf in transatlantic data privacy law after the latest executive order by US President Donald Trump threatened to upend international agreements.

Last week's executive order, aimed at beefing up public safety in the US, appeared to remove data privacy protection rights from EU citizens' information handled in the US.

Section 14 of the Trump administration's Executive Order states: "Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information."

MEPs such as data protection rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht were quick to point out on Twitter that the move undermines transatlantic agreements on protecting EU citizens' rights.

These include the controversial Privacy Shield transatlantic accord.

This purports to offer EU levels of privacy protection to European citizens' data when handled by US-based organisations.

However, a spokesman for the European Commission said that new legislation which came into force yesterday would prevent protection being removed for EU citizens' data in the US.

"We are aware of the executive order on public safety," said the spokesman.

"The US Privacy Act has never offered data protection rights to Europeans.

"The Commission negotiated two additional instruments to ensure that EU citizens' data is duly protected when transferred to the US."

The spokesman added that the EU-US Umbrella Agreement enters into force this Friday.

"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."

The spokesman said that the Commission "will continue to monitor the implementation of both instruments and are following closely any changes in the US that might have an effect on Europeans' data protection rights".

Last Friday, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, weighed in on the situation.

"I need to be reassured that Privacy Shield can remain," she said. "I need to have reconfirmation that there is continuity."

Ms Jourova is to travel to the US in several weeks to meet her American counterparts. She is also scheduled to prepare the first annual joint review of the Privacy Shield accord.

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