The European Union and the United States have reached an agreement in principle on new privacy agreements. This may enable the transfer of personal data from the EU to the USA. The previous privacy deal put an end to the EU court in 2020.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed the agreement in principle with US president Joe Biden today. Details of the new agreements are still missing. If the agreement becomes final, data from EU citizens will again be allowed to flow freely to US companies.
The EU and the US have been negotiating on the issue for almost two years. Major US tech companies, such as Facebook parent company Meta, have already hinted at leaving the EU if an agreement is not reached. Many companies also did not comply with the ruling of the European Court of Justice. Regulators therefore wanted to take stricter action soon.
Von der Leyen speaks of a “balanced and effective solution”.
“This will enable predictable and reliable data flows between the EU and the US, while ensuring privacy and civil liberties. We manage to balance security and the right to privacy and data protection.”A final deal on the issue is expected to take months,” an EU official told Reuters.
The European Court of Justice declared the so-called Privacy Shield from 2016 null and void in July 2020 after a complaint by the Austrian privacy activist and lawyer Max Schrems about the Irish branch of Facebook. Facebook Ireland has transferred personal data to Facebook in the United States, and Schrems has filed a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Authority (DPC). He wondered if they were adequately protected. DPC asked the Irish court for advice, which then engaged the EU court.
The court found Schrems right: personal data that companies send from Europe to the United States are less well protected than in the European Union.
Schrems said he was waiting for the final text of the agreement between the EU and the US. “Once that text is in place, we will analyse it thoroughly, along with our U.S. legal experts. If it does not comply with EU law, it is likely that we or another group will challenge it. Then the European Court of Justice will have to decide again.”
He called today’s announcement a ” political announcement.” “The deal was apparently a symbol that von der Leyen wanted, but has no support among experts in Brussels, as the US did not move,” Schrems said.
He says that “the US allegedly used the war against Ukraine to spur the EU in this Economic Area”. He regrets that the EU and the US have not come to an agreement not to spy on each other, with “basic guarantees among like-minded democracies”. Schrems: “customers and companies are facing more years of legal uncertainty.”