EU/U.S. Privacy Shield Adopted

The European Commission has officially adopted the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, drawing plaudits from House Republicans and others.

The framework is billed as protecting "the fundamental rights of anyone in the EU whose personal data is transferred to the United States as well as bringing legal clarity for businesses relying on transatlantic data transfers."

The EC member states approved the shield last week, but it became official today (July 12).

The shield replaces the safe harbor agreement ruled insufficiently safe by a European Union court, which invalidated it last October over concerns about the U.S. being able to hold up its end of the agreement given the government surveillance revealed by the Edward Snowden leaks. The framework requires companies to provide notice of what personal information is being collected and stored, the purposes it is used for, and an "opt out" mechanism.

As part of the new shield, the U.S. has given the European Union "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," the commission emphasized in announcing the vote.

The U.S. Congress did its part back in February to provide further assurances, passing legislation, the Judicial Redress Act, that gives EU member citizens, at least those in countries considered U.S. allies, privacy rights similar to those of U.S. citizens for data stored in this country and the legal standing to seek judicial remedies here for mishandling of that data.

The framework agreement was struck Feb. 2.

“The enactment of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield is a major victory for transatlantic commerce," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-Tex.), and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in a joint statement. "Adoption of this agreement encourages innovation and bolsters respective economies by ensuring a seamless flow of data across the Atlantic while also safeguarding individuals’ personal data. It also highlights the successful approach that the FTC has taken towards privacy and security,” said Upton, Burgess, and Walden."

“Today’s adoption of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement ends a long period of uncertainty for marketers and advertisers and signals important support for the role of the responsible data use and transfer in accelerating consumer benefits, economic growth and innovation," said digital marketing trade association DMA. "Throughout this process, EU Commissioner Věra Jourová, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and other EU and U.S. officials have remained dedicated to the vital flow of data between the U.S. and EU and we applaud their hard work and commitment."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.