Greetings from Brussels!
Brussels is awash with privacy pros and data protection policy-watchers piping the unanswered question: What now that Safe Harbor is dead? We’ve seen U.S. congressmen, EU commissioners, Council members, parliamentarians, external counsel and, especially, data protection officers lobbying and questioning in all quarters. There is the bigger question, too: What does this imply for Europe’s future digital strategy, which has been heralded by European leaders as well as the European Commission as the answer to everything from breaking down protectionist digital barriers to job creation in region?
Suddenly, data protection and privacy are front-and-center of the greater European policy debate. This is good, in the long run, for those of us working in privacy, but the uncertainty as it plays out probably has many of you pulling your hair out.
The ECJ ruling last week invalidating the so-called Safe Harbor agreement between the EU and the U.S. that allowed American tech firms to transfer customer data from the EU to corporate servers in the U.S. is unquestionably a big deal. I attended a LIBE (Civil liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) Committee meeting this week at the European Parliament, and, understandably, the various MEPs were relatively indignant toward their sister institution the European Commission for lacking the foresight and due diligence to foresee this potential disaster on the horizon. Why weren’t they prepared for this, when many in the European Parliament have seen the death of Safe Harbor coming for years?
The ball is now in the U.S.’s court, and parliamentarians, especially, are looking to see whether the U.S. will truly create a legal framework where EU citizen data is protected in equal measure to the way it is protected in the EU. Namely, will EU citizens have legal standing to pursue the U.S. government should they feel their data has been inappropriately accessed? Some are optimistic about the Judicial Redress bill traveling through the U.S. Congress. Others are pessimistic that the NSA will ever be covered by such a law.
At the very least, with so much at stake, we are likely to soon see what happens.
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