By Jennifer L. Saunders

Ten years ago today, the European Commission agreed to recognize the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) “safe harbor” principles, and that anniversary has prompted Schleswig-Holstein Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner Thilo Weichert to call for an end to the agreement.

In a press release issued in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary, Germany’s Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) raised questions about safe harbor as cited in a study by Australian privacy researcher Chris Connolly due to be formally released in August.

According to the information included in the release, Connolly found that “2,170 U.S. companies claim to be safe harbor privileged; whereof 388 were not even registered with the Department of Commerce (DOC). Among the registered companies, 181 certificates were found to be not current due to lapse of time. The check on the seventh principle concerning enforcement alone showed that 940 out of the 2,170 U.S. companies do not provide information on how to enforce individuals’ rights. 314 companies provide a dispute resolution scheme that costs between $2,000 and $4,000. Thus, it is hardly surprising that not a single complaint procedure has been carried out. Despite the more than 2,000 annual complaints about noncompliance with the safe harbor principles, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has prosecuted only seven organizations for falsely claiming safe harbor self-certification."

The ULD contends that authorities in the U.S. have not done enough to stop the “misuse of safe harbor” by U.S. companies and organizations.

“From a privacy perspective, there is only one conclusion to be drawn from the lessons learned-–to terminate safe harbor immediately,” Weichert said, continuing on to suggest, “The least that should be done is to demand from the U.S. short-term positive evidence concerning enforcement of the safe harbor principles.”

Dan Caprio, managing director at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP and former chief privacy officer for the DOC, offered a different perspective.

“In spite of an inauspicious beginning, many on both sides of the Atlantic point to the safe harbor program as a success story,” Caprio said. ”There have been numerous instances over the years where disputes have been resolved obviating the need for formal enforcement actions.”

As the European Commission’s adequacy decision related to safe harbor is legally binding for all 27 EU member states, Weichert is urging that body “to immediately reopen negotiation to revise the principles and to make them effective” suggesting that in their current form, they allow U.S. companies to “bustle about claiming safe harbor and thus declaring themselves empowered to process the data of millions of European citizens and earning a lot of money without anyone-–neither individuals nor data protection authorities--being able to check on them.”


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

It's Innovation Awards Time!

We're searching for today's privacy innovators. Sound like anyone you know? (Perhaps even you?) Tell us about it! We'll announce the winners at P.S.R.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

It's Innovation Awards Time!

We're searching for today's privacy innovators. Sound like anyone you know? (Perhaps even you?) Tell us about it! We'll announce the winners at P.S.R.

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

Get Schooled in Privacy

Looking to get some higher-ed in privacy? Check out these schools that include data privacy courses in their curricula.

Are You Ready for the GDPR?

Check out the IAPP GDPR Readiness Assessment Powered by TRUSTe and find out where you stand when it comes to GDPR compliance.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

More Resources »

The IAPP Asia Privacy Forum Returns

Delivering inspired education and discussion on the top data protection issues of today, you can’t miss it. Register now.

P.S.R.: Lewinsky to Explore Online Shaming

With three stellar keynotes confirmed, incl. Monica Lewinsky, we’ve opened registration early so you can secure your spot now.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

It's Innovation Awards Time!

We're searching for today's privacy innovators. Sound like anyone you know? (Perhaps even you?) Tell us about it! We'll announce the winners at P.S.R.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»