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The Privacy Advisor | European Regulators, FTC Unveil Cross-Border Data Transfer Tool Related reading: PCLOB report further divides FISA Section 702 reauthorization talks


After a year of collaboration on the effort, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), together with data protection authorities from around the world, held a press conference at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit Thursday to announce a joint agreement between the G29 and APEC countries aiming to aid companies in achieving compliance with global data transfers. Speaking for the group, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chairwoman of the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) and president of the Article 29 Working Party, said the tool, called a “referential,” is a “very political and symbolic act” for companies seeking to obtain double certification under Europe’s binding corporate rules (BCRs) and APEC’s cross-border privacy rules (CBPRs).

The referential is a pragmatic checklist that compares and identifies the common principles among BCRs and CBPRs and aims to help companies identify additional requirements they may need to comply with an order for their data transfers to be legal. Falque-Pierrotin specified, however, that the referential does not aim to create a mutual-recognition system.

“There is no judgment between the two systems, no legal assessment of a certain level of protection, no adequacy-finding mechanism,” she said. “It is just about being pragmatic for companies by developing a common checklist of our specific requirements.”

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez congratulated APEC and the Article 29 Working Party on achieving the referential.

“Since last year, the referential has come a long way in demonstrating overlaps in the APEC privacy system and BCRs, and I’m really quite pleased and honored to be here with you and to be part of this rollout,” she said, adding it’s important to emphasize the importance of this work.

Reps from the FTC, Department of Commerce and European data protection authorities at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit reveal new tool for global data transfers.

A representative from the Department of Commerce clarified, “This is a practical tool for companies looking at certifying separately, not a mechanism for moving data.”

Ramirez said the U.S. is committed to continuing working with the EU on data transfer mechanisms such as BCRs and Safe Harbor, and that’s why this tool is an important step in the dialogue.

“Interoperability is absolutely critical, and the FTC has long been an advocate for great interoperability between the legal and privacy regimes around the world,” she said. “Given our global data economy today, that’s of course essential. Without the ability to work across systems, we simply can’t effectively protect the privacy of consumer data, and that’s why as part of the U.S. delegation to the APEC data privacy subgroup, the FTC has been actively involved, along with the Department of Commerce, in developing the CBPRs and also working on this referential.”

The next step, Ramirez said, will be to involve stakeholders for their input in refining the referential, an effort which is now being organized jointly among the regulators involved.

Daniele Chatelois, chair of APEC's Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS), said involving stakeholders is what makes this process as successful and productive as possible.

“We will work jointly with our colleagues in the EU on parameters and how they want to develop next steps for this initiative,” she said, “which could involve additional documents, guidelines and tools for various players. The idea is to use these tools to build trust and confidence in the systems.”

She said multi-stakeholder engagement will take place via international calls and e-mails for now.

Dutch Data Protection Authority Jacob Kohnstamm emphasized that enforcing privacy rules is essential in a borderless world.

“There are different privacy rules in APEC countries and the European Union, and so we are not only obliged to see whether we could build bridges between these systems, but if we are serious about data protection, we need to do so because without that, people in the field and on the ground may not take privacy rules the way they should take them, which is to take them seriously,” he said. “I think this is a first step; there are other first steps to be taken. The dream of having one legal system in all of the world is a little too far away; these are steps we can take in the meanwhile.”

Also today, the FTC voted to allow Ramirez to sign a memorandum of understanding with UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham to promote increased cooperation among the two agencies in their efforts on data protection.


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