Hill Republicans Praise New Safe Harbor

Some top Hill Republicans were celebrating the new safe harbor data protection and redress agreement, being billed as a "privacy shield," reached Feb. 2 by negotiators for the U.S. and European Union, though they reserved the champagne until they had vetted the finer points.

In a joint statement, the Republican leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee expressed their support for the voluntary agreement on how U.S. companies treat data from residents of the 28 EU member countries.

“A major roadblock has been lifted. This agreement is an important win for American job creators as it’s critical nothing holds back the innovation that depends on digital data flows," they said. "Our negotiators ensured that American businesses can continue their operations across the Atlantic – selling goods and services, providing communications tools to connect the world, and allowing the free flow of data than can help improve the consumer experience – all without interruption."

Joining in that welcoming committee were Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee chairman Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). Along with others, they had pushed for a deal following a court's invalidation of the previous safe harbor over concerns about U.S. surveillance of data raised by the Edward Snowden leaks.

But there was a slight reservation in their tone. “Our focus now turns to understanding the finer details and enforcement mechanisms of the new deal, which hopefully won’t temper today’s good news."

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Commerce Department officials were not forthcoming with details on the new agreement, saying there were changes to how companies would handle data under the voluntary safe harbor, but that those would be detailed in upcoming briefings.

Calling the agreement a victory was Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and, along with the above House Republicans, one of the signatories on a letter that had pushed the Commerce Department to come up with a successor safe harbor agreement.

“American and European businesses and consumers increasingly rely on trans-Atlantic data exchanges as part of a longstanding and mutually-beneficial trade relationship," he said. "This agreement is a needed victory for job creation efforts in an already turbulent global economic situation. I urge the EU and the U.S. Department of Commerce to implement the new EU-U.S. ‘Privacy Shield’ agreement without delay."

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.