A vote in the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee calling for the suspension of the EU-US Privacy Shield is irresponsible and could leave EU citizens in legal limbo, warned West Midlands MEP Dan Dalton.
The committee were voting on a report on the implementation of the Privacy Shield, which became operational in August 2016 and protects people when their personal data is transferred to the US for commercial purposes. It includes safeguards on US government access as well as protection and redress through dispute resolution mechanisms. In October 2017 the first review of the Privacy Shield was published and found that the agreement continues to ensure an adequate level of protection, with US authorities ensuring proper implementation such as new redress possibilities for EU citizens, including complaint-handling and enforcement procedures, and better cooperation with European Data protection authorities.
While making a number of useful recommendations to improve its implementation, such as appointing a permanent Privacy Shield Ombudsman, the committee’s resolution makes a series of impractical and unreasonable demands such as calling on the Commission to suspend the Privacy Shield if the US do not comply fully with the agreement by 1st September 2018. Suspending the agreement would in reality diminish the data protection rights of EU citizens and leave them in legal limbo while commercially it would most likely hit SMEs the hardest as they would be faced with urgently introducing new temporary measures, such as on contracts and corporate rules.
Speaking after the vote, Dan said:
“We have seen before the consequences of suspending international agreements and the fragmentation and uncertainty it causes. The same people who claim they are guarding the data rights and privacy of European citizens, should be honest and admit that in the absence of the privacy shield agreement, the data rights and rights of redress for European citizens is in reality seriously diminished. The rights of EU citizens will be in complete legal limbo.
“Commercially, small and medium sized businesses are the most likely to be negatively affected and expecting them to put in place model contract clauses and binding corporate rules is completely unrealistic and would have administrative and significant financial consequences.
“The EU needs to start working cooperatively with the US authorities, rather than simply calling for them and everyone else to adopt EU standards. We wouldn’t like it if it was the other way around.