Sunday 22 April 2018

New EU-US data pact boosts Irish-based tech multinationals

Mark Redmond
Mark Redmond

Adrian Weckler and Julia Fioretti

Facebook, Google and other Irish-based tech multinationals will not face any block on data transfers to the US in the near future after the EU and US agreed a new transatlantic data accord.

The 'Privacy Shield' pact, which succeeds the struck-down 'Safe Harbour' agreement, ends months of uncertainty over cross-border data flows.

The new agreement will give businesses moving personal data from the EU to the US - from human resources information to people's browsing histories to hotel bookings - an easy way to do so without falling foul of tough EU data transferral rules.

The previous Safe Harbour framework was struck down by the European Court of Justice last October on the grounds that it allowed US security agents too much access to Europeans' personal data.

Revelations three years ago from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of mass US surveillance practices caused political outrage in Europe and stoked mistrust of big US tech companies.

In the months that followed the EU ruling companies have had to rely on other more cumbersome mechanisms for legally transferring data to the United States.

The Privacy Shield agreement will underpin over €200bn of transatlantic trade in digital services annually.

"The timely implementation of the Privacy Shield agreement will remove a significant source of uncertainty for companies in the conduct of their businesses," said Mark Redmond, inset, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland.

EU data protection authorities, who had demanded improvements to the Privacy Shield in April, said they were analysing the framework and would finalise a position by July 25.

"For small businesses that need to transfer data for commercial reasons, it provides legal certainty," said Minister of State for EU Affairs and Data Protection Dara Murphy.

Google and Microsoft said they would sign up to the Privacy Shield agreement and would work with European data protection authorities in case of inquiries.

A spokesman for Facebook said the company had not yet decided whether to sign up.

"It's too early to say as we haven't seen the full text yet but like other companies we will be evaluating the text in the coming weeks," he said.

The Privacy Shield accord seeks to strengthen the protection of Europeans whose data is moved to US servers by giving EU citizens greater means to seek redress in case of disputes, including through a new privacy ombudsman within the US State Department who will deal with complaints from EU citizens about US spying.

However the framework also faces criticism from privacy advocates for not going far enough in protecting Europeans' data and is widely expected to be challenged in court.

Irish Independent

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