Following the decision on October 6, 2015 in which the European Court of Justice had declared the system of “Safe Harbour” (in effect since 2000) to be invalid, since it was ineffective in providing adequate privacy for European citizens (see our previous article), the European Commission renegotiated with the authorities of the United States terms for the transfer of European citizens’ personal data to other countries and later signed the new agreement, the “EU – US Privacy Shield” on the 29th of February, 2016. Recently, there have been several details published by the European Commission regarding the new agreement, together with details about the draft of a proposal that, once adopted, will set forth the equivalence of levels of protection for data between Europe and the United States.
Among the improvements to methods for processing personal data transferred from Europe is included the acknowledgement of more stringent obligations on part of US companies. Such obligations will be accompanied by a more severe system of supervision and control in addition to sanctions against companies that do not adhere to the rules of the agreement. Furthermore, this is the first time that guarantees for transparency and limitations for US companies were provided, with the exception of specific cases (regarding national security) in which general controls of data cannot be implemented.
In cases where their data is used illegally, European citizens will have the ability to appeal directly to those companies or to the national authorities of data protection, who together with the Federal Trade Commission, work to resolve these types of issues. In addition, there are plans to hire an independent figure who will monitor access to national intelligence and who will manage complains and requests of various information, as well as evaluate compliance of the rules and act as an “Ombudsperson”.
Furthermore, the operation of the Privacy Shield will be monitored systematically by an annual mechanism of joint review between the European Commission and the US Department of Commerce.