November 30, 2015 / 10:07 AM / 2 years ago

EU official says close to data deal with U.S.: paper

VIENNA (Reuters) - The European Union and United States should reach agreement next month on a new framework to replace the Safe Harbour pact enabling data transfers from Europe to the United States, European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova told a newspaper.

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Brussels and Washington are locked in negotiations to forge a new agreement for the transfer of data, which would otherwise be subject to cumbersome and lengthy legal processes under EU data protection law.

Safe Harbour, which was used by more than 4,000 U.S. and European companies, was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice in October because U.S. national security needs trumped the privacy of Europeans’ data.

“We have to build a bridge between our data protection authorities and those of the USA and put it into a legally binding text,” Jourova told Austrian newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt in an interview published on Monday.

“We should manage that by the next meeting on Dec. 17.”

To address the court’s concerns, particularly that Europeans do not have legal channels to challenge misuse of their data, the Commission is looking for ways to involve European privacy watchdogs more deeply, Jourova said.

“The main problem is the responsibilities of the European data protection authorities and of the U.S. counterpart, the Federal Trade Commission: they should implement the requirements and deal with the complaints of citizens,” she said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was responsible for monitoring companies’ compliance with the Safe Harbour privacy principles, although it does not deal with complaints from individuals.

A bigger role for European watchdogs would allow citizens to complain directly to their national authorities, people familiar with the matter said last week.

A similar mechanism existed in the old Safe Harbour framework for human resources data which are often sensitive.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Potter

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