EU and US sign agreement in principle on data exchange

The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) have reached an agreement in principle on forwarding data from European citizens to America. In the agreement, security and the right to privacy are better guaranteed than under the old regulation. The agreements will be finalized in the coming months.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, reports this in a press statement.

European Court ends Privacy Shield

Before the start of this issue, we have to go back to the summer of 2020. The European Court of Justice then canceled the Privacy Shield. The document laid down agreements on data exchange between the European mainland and North America. One of the agreements was that the country where the data is stored offers the same level of protection as here in Europe.

That was not the case, according to the judge. The Court found that the storage and security measures in the US were not in line with ours in Europe. Because the principle of proportionality could not be guaranteed, the Privacy Shield could no longer serve as a basis for data exchange with America.

Since then, European and American companies and organizations have had to work with Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC) or model contracts. In practice, that hardly happened. Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems sent a total of 101 complaints to national regulators in 30 countries to enforce compliance.

‘Balance between security and the right to privacy

After almost two years of negotiations, a deal has finally been struck between Europe and the US. In a speech, Ursula von der Leyen says she is “very pleased” with the new agreement. “This will enable predictable and reliable data flows between the EU and the US while safeguarding the privacy and civil liberties,” said the President of the European Commission.

Von der Leyen is very grateful to Didier Reynders (European Commissioner of Justice) and Gina Marie Raimondo (Secretary of the US Department of Commerce) for their work. They have found “a balanced and effective solution” to resume the exchange of data. “This is another step in strengthening our partnership. We manage to strike a balance between security and the right to privacy and data protection.”

The agreements are not yet final. A person involved tells Reuters news agency that it will probably take months before everything is in place.

Schrems questions the principle agreement

Max Schrems, the founder of the privacy movement Noyb, is skeptical about the agreement in principle. According to him, this is a ‘political announcement’ and there is no new agreement on the table yet. As far as we know, the US is not going to change its surveillance laws, which is a major obstacle to final agreements. Until then, companies are not allowed to invoke the agreement, the privacy advocate emphasizes.

In an initial response, Schrems says that he will have the agreement thoroughly analyzed as soon as it is final. Should the deal not be in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other European privacy legislation, it will go back to the European Court of Justice. “It is regrettable that the EU and the US have not used this situation to reach a ‘no spy’ agreement, with basic guarantees among like-minded democracies. Customers and companies are faced with more years of legal uncertainty,” says Schrems. He thinks US President Joe Biden used the war in Ukraine to put pressure on the EU.

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