On 17 March, MEPs sitting in the EP´s Civil Liberties Committee held a hearing on the new EU-US Privacy Shield – a legal mechanism for commercial data transfers (data transfers for law enforcement purposes are subject to a different regime). The previous framework for data transfers, dubbed Safe Harbor, was struck down by the EU Court of Justice because it failed to provide enough safeguards against indiscriminate data collection by US authorities. Both EU and US officials tried to convince the MEPs that Privacy Shield is different. US changed significantly its laws on data collection for security purposes, gave EU citizens equal rights as US citizens have when dealing with data privacy and set up mechanisms for complaints filed by EU citizens, together with a special Ombudsman for data privacy. Proponents of the deal, e.g. from the center-right EPP group, find it therefore radically different than the old Safe Harbor. Center-left MEPs from the S&D group agreed, but voiced some partial concerns. On the other hand, the liberals (ALDE group) and several groups of activists (including Max Schrems, an Austrian law student whose complaint ultimately brought down Safe Harbor) disagree and see the regime as too weak. In any case, the deal will be in place once the European Commission officially publishes its decision on the equivalence of US data standards to EU´s (with specific conditions laid down in the agreement). The EP has no formal role in this process. However, the MEPs will have to vote on the upcoming EU-US Umbrella Agreement – an agreement on data sharing for law enforcement purposes that should replace several EU-US agreements on specific issues (air passengers, bank transactions).
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2nd May 2018