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Hill to Look at Progress on Data Safe Harbor

The House Communications Subcommittee and Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing on the status of safe harbor negotiations between the U.S. and European Union Nov. 3.

"With over 4,000 American businesses, including those in technology, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, and retail, relying on the agreement," said the committee in announcing the hearing, "members will review the uncertainty generated by the court’s decision and review the administration’s work to finalize a new framework with their European counterparts."

Those negotiations have been in the works for a while, but took on new urgency after an EU Court invalidated the current voluntary safe harbor for exchange of date from EU to non-EU countries because the U.S. could not adequately protect its privacy.

Two weeks ago, a senior European Union legal official advised the EU court that the U.S. cannot ensure adequate privacy protections of a European Facebook subscriber's information transferred to U.S. servers, citing mass U.S. government (NSA) surveillance revealed by leaker Edward Snowden and saying that the 2000 safe harbor agreement between the EU and the U.S. was invalid.

The Court of Justice agreed.

“The importance of cross-border data flows for jobs in both the U.S. and EU cannot be overstated, said Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Commerce chair Michael Burgess (R-Tex.). "The free flow of data allows small and medium sized businesses to reach a global audience in a way that was not possible just a few years ago,” said Burgess and Walden. “It is encouraging to see both the administration and their European counterparts working on a solution and we urge all parties to stay at the table to reach a sustainable agreement as soon as possible. This uncertainty is not necessary and doesn’t help either side of the Atlantic.”

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.