U.S., EU Agree on Privacy Shield to Maintain Transatlantic Data Flow
NEWS ANALYSIS: There are stumbling blocks, however, to a signed agreement, as European privacy advocates are wary of the agreement and European privacy agencies are already looking to file a challenge to it.The free flow of petabytes of data transmitted by the largest corporations and private citizens will continue across the Atlantic Ocean as the result of a new "safe harbor" agreement reached Feb. 2 between the United States and the European Union to protect data transfers between the United States and EU member nations. The agreement replaces a 15-year-old pact that the EU's highest court struck down in October 2015 because it failed to protect the data of European citizens from snooping by U.S. intelligence or police authorities. Months of intense negotiations in Brussels, Belgium, the headquarters of the European Commission, finally yielded results a couple of days past the Jan. 31 deadline. The talks were closely watched by the world's tech community because a failure to reach a timely agreement could conceivably have disrupted or at least complicated transatlantic data transfers. Right now, EU negotiators are pleased that they got the concessions they wanted, which limit access to the private data of Europeans by U.S. intelligence agencies.
U.S. Commerce Department officials, meanwhile, seemed almost giddy with delight as they discussed the agreement's terms at a press conference, especially since some of the world's largest corporations—including Google, Facebook and Amazon.com—were holding their feet to the fire. But there is still a great deal of uncertainty about whether the current informal framework of the draft agreement will hold water long enough to go into effect.