Tuesday 12 December 2017

New EU-US data transfer pact set for approval - top diplomat

US Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner as he makes his speech at the American Chamber of Commerce of Ireland Lunch in Dublin
US Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner as he makes his speech at the American Chamber of Commerce of Ireland Lunch in Dublin
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

A new data transfer pact between the United States and the European Union will be strong enough to withstand future legal challenge, America's top diplomat in Europe has said.

In a speech in Dublin, Anthony L Gardner, the US ambassador to the EU, said the so-called EU-US Privacy Shield deal was set to get approval later this month.

Member states are expected to hold a vote in the coming weeks and then it will come into force.

Brussels and Washington rushed to hammer out the data pact after the EU's highest court last year struck down the previous system, Safe Harbour, on concerns about mass US surveillance practices, threatening data flows that are key to billions of dollars of business.

The ruling was the result of a case brought in the courts here by Austrian student Max Schrems against Facebook's Irish office.

Read More: UK referendum fears failed to dent Ireland's manufacturing

Mr Gardner said the new agreement represents "a significant achievement for privacy both for individuals and businesses".

"It includes new privacy protections to be implemented by companies, as well as new US government commitments and resources to administer Privacy Shield and oversee compliance," Mr Gardner told the American Ireland Chamber of Commerce Independence Day lunch.

"We're confident that the revised framework can withstand future judicial scrutiny because it meets the court's standard of essential equivalents."

In the previous legal case, Mr Schrems argued that revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden about United States security agencies routinely spying on Europeans' emails and messages meant that the transfer of EU citizens' personal data to the US jurisdiction must not be allowed under European law.

The ruling caused a political and legal stand-off that threatened transatlantic trade and resulted in the new agreement.

Earlier this year, US multinational companies in Ireland warned that a failure to produce an agreement would threaten jobs in Ireland.

For 15 years Safe Harbour allowed both US and European firms to get around tough EU data transferral rules by stating they complied with European privacy standards when storing information on US servers.

EU privacy regulators expressed concern about an initial deal struck in February.

Mr Gardner said that all to often in Europe it has argued that Europeans care about data privacy, while Americans don't.

He said the privacy regime in the US was as "robust than any in Europe".

Mr Gardner skirted around the issue of Brexit and the upcoming US elections joking that what was happening in UK politics was akin to the US hit TV show, 'House of Cards'.

"As a public service, we have decided for the next four months, we're going to provide for the entire world, free, high quality entertainment, including for Europe, and you're welcome," he said, referring to the US election.

"But I'm not sure the House of Cards in Netflix can compete with the House of Cards that is currently unfolding in the UK."

He said the UK had made an "historic decision" and that the vote "deserves respect".

Irish Independent

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