EU-U.S. commercial data transfer pact clears final hurdle

Fri Jul 8, 2016 8:51am EDT
 
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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A commercial data transfer pact provisionally agreed by the EU executive and the United States in February received the green light from EU governments on Friday, the European Commission said, paving the way for it to come into effect next week.

Its introduction should end months of legal limbo for companies such as Google, Facebook and MasterCard after the EU's top court struck down the previous data transfer framework, Safe Harbour, on concerns about intrusive U.S. surveillance.

Representatives of European Union member states mostly voted in favor of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, but there were abstentions from Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Croatia, sources said. Austria and Slovenia have voiced concerns that the pact does not go far enough to secure their citizens' privacy.

The new framework will underpin over $250 billion dollars of transatlantic trade in digital services annually by facilitating cross-border data transfers that are crucial to international business.

"Today member states have given their strong support to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, the renewed safe framework for transatlantic data flows," Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said in a statement.

The Commission, the EU executive, will formally adopt the Privacy Shield on Tuesday.

The Privacy Shield seeks to strengthen the protection of Europeans whose data is moved to U.S. servers by giving EU citizens greater means to seek redress in case of disputes.

For 15 years Safe Harbour allowed both U.S. and European firms to get around tough EU data transferral rules by stating they complied with European privacy standards when storing information on U.S. servers.   Continued...

 
A woman hovers a mouse over the Google and European Union logos in this April 15, 2015 photo illustration.  REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo