EU-US safe harbour talks are lingering just outside port, says US

EU: Look, look, there's a storm coming!


In a visit to Brussels this week, US Under Secretary Catherine Novelli told reporters that an agreement on a revised Safe Harbor framework was just weeks away. But the European Commissioner responsible for data protection, Vera Jourova, said there were still obstacles to be overcome.

The Safe Harbor agreement is a legally enforceable but voluntary code of conduct for US businesses that process European citizens’ data. The bilateral deal was reached in 2000 and is supposed to guarantee Europeans data privacy in line with the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive.

Following the Snowden revelations last year many don’t believe it is worth the paper it’s printed on and the European Parliament has called for it to be suspended.

Instead of suspension, however, the European Commission has sought to renegotiate certain aspects of it including getting judicial redress rights for European citizens equivalent to those enjoyed by Americans.

“We have achieved solid commitments on the commercial aspects,” said Jourova, “However, work still needs to continue as far as national security exemptions are concerned. Discussions will continue.”

Sources in Brussels told el Reg that the national security issue was much bigger than is being admitted by the public representatives with neither side giving much ground.

Novelli, however, was optimistic: “We will be able to get to an agreement on a revised Safe Harbour as it is very important that we find ways to preserve data flows. We don’t want to shoot each other in the foot.”

In fact it would be data-hungry companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter that would be hopping around should the Safe Harbour talks fail. Safe Harbour is also under threat from another quarter as the European Court of Justice considers the case of Max Schrems who complained that Facebook had passed personal data on to the NSA in breach of his data protection rights. A ruling in that case could scupper the deal altogether.

However Novelli was not prepared to discuss a Plan B: “It is awfully hard to speculate on this case,” she said.

The Safe Harbour agreement only pertains to data processed by companies, but the EU and US are also in talks on the so-called “Umbrella Agreement” designed to protect personal data for law enforcement purposes.

Jourova, who was meeting with the new US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that negotiators were making “solid progress” on the Umbrella Agreement. ®


Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022