A couple of days after expiry of the 31 January deadline, political agreement has been reached for a new arrangement for data transfers from the EU to the US, to be known as the “EU-US Privacy Shield” (aka Safe Harbor 2.0).
This follows the European Court of Justice decision in October 2015 in the Schrems case that the (old) Safe Harbour arrangement was invalid.
The new arrangement will provide stronger obligations on US companies to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the US FTC.
To facilitate the data flows, the US has been forced for the first time to give a commitment that access by US public authorities to the personal data of EU citizens will be subject to clear conditions, limitations and oversight. The US has also given an assurance that it will not conduct mass or indiscriminate surveillance of Europeans.
US companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed. The Department of Commerce will monitor that companies publish their commitments, which makes them enforceable under US law by the FTC.
It is very common for EU based subsidiaries of US groups to transfer HR data to the US parent. Under the EU-US Privacy Shield any US company handling HR data from Europe will have to commit to comply with decisions by European DPAs.
In addition, Europeans who consider that their data has been misused will be able to raise any enquiry or complaint with a dedicated new Ombudsperson.
While it is remarkable to reach agreement on such matters within such a short space of time, underlining the political urgency, it’s not all done yet. The EU have to prepare a draft “adequacy decision” in the coming weeks. And the US have to put in place the new monitoring mechanisms and new Ombudsman. We continue to watch the space!
Meanwhile, bear in mind that Safe Harbor / the EU-US Privacy Shield is not the only solution to data transfers from the EU to the US and we continue to work with many companies to put in place other solutions, such as contracts based on model clauses or binding corporate rules.