European Member States Approve Privacy Shield Agreement

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-07-09 Print this article Print
Privacy Shield

Other areas of criticism include targeted advertising such as those annoying ads from Google long after you've either purchased something or decided you aren't going to.

For most companies, the Privacy Shield agreement is an important step in their efforts to conduct business outside of either the U.S. or the EU. Without it, companies had to have a contractual agreement that provided similar protections or any data transfer had to take place within a company or between a company and its subsidiaries. It's now even more important because of efforts in Europe to invalidate such contractual agreements.

European leaders are expressing their support for the agreement. European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip and Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova issued a joint statement that noted, "It is fundamentally different from the old 'Safe Harbour': It imposes clear and strong obligations on companies handling the data and makes sure that these rules are followed and enforced in practice."

They also noted that 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."

Once the agreement gains final approval and is fully implemented, the next steps for both governments are to make sure that it's actually honored. In the U.S., at least, there has been a strong temptation to circumvent any impediment to gathering information, regardless of whether it's protected by treaty or statute.

While the most visible example of the tendency to ignore privacy rights emerged when Snowden started releasing documents, this is by no means limited to activities of the U.S. government.

In fact, businesses, including Google and social media companies such as Facebook, routinely gather as much information as they can, wherever they can, for their own uses. Those uses include everything from using photos of people so they can be tagged on Facebook to the previously mentioned sales of advertisements on Google. Now the real challenge will be to see if those companies can resist the temptation to ignore the Privacy Shield and respect the privacy rights of Europeans.

And who knows, maybe they can also respect similar rights for people in the U.S., and at least make it possible to opt out of those ads that users of the Internet find so annoying. I was reminded of that while working on this story while trying to get past a seemingly unlimited number of ads for a Toyota pickup truck that I once looked at in an ad months ago. Maybe the Europeans are on to something here.



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