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European Commission straps on Privacy Shield

In force as soon as member states realise it's been adopted

The European Commission has this morning adopted the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement, which will enter into force as soon as all member states are notified of the adequacy decision (PDF).

Privacy Shield, which has been adopted after months of negotiations, is an agreement between the EU and the US which ostensibly ensures that the data protection which Europeans benefit from when their personal data is held locally is also effected when that data is transported to the US.

As it was brought forward following the collapse of Safe Harbor in the light of the Snowden revelations, which have not resulted in any significant change in the NSA's surveillance activities, it is understood that legal challenges to the agreement are likely, but as of today Privacy Shield now governs the transfer of data from the EU to the US.

The US Department of Commerce will conduct regular update and reviews of participating companies to ensure that they are in compliance, and has the power to impose sanctions and remove those companies from the list of certified companies if found to be non-compliant.

Andrus Ansip, the European Commission's veep for the Digital Single Market, said the agreement "will protect the personal data of our people and provide clarity for businesses. Data flows between our two continents are essential to our society and economy – we now have a robust framework ensuring these transfers take place in the best and safest conditions."

Věra Jourová, the commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality described it as "a robust new system to protect the personal data of Europeans and ensure legal certainty for businesses. It brings stronger data protection standards that are better enforced, safeguards on government access, and easier redress for individuals in case of complaints."

She added that: "The new framework will restore the trust of consumers when their data is transferred across the Atlantic. We have worked together with the European data protection authorities, the European Parliament, the Member States and our U.S. counterparts to put in place an arrangement with the highest standards to protect Europeans' personal data."

Meanwhile the US will publish the Privacy Shield framework in its Federal Register, the equivalent of the EU's Official Journal, and the Department of Commerce will become responsible for operating it. American megacorps now have an opportunity to review the framework and update their compliance activities before certifying with the Department of Commerce from August 1.

At the same time the European Commission will publish "a short guide for citizens explaining the available remedies in case an individual considers that his personal data has been used without taking into account the data protection rules."

It explained that any citizen who suspects their personal data has been "misused" under the new agreement "will benefit from several accessible and affordable dispute resolution mechanisms".

Where companies themselves fail to resolve these complaints, and free of charge Alternative Dispute resolution (ADR) solutions are not reached, Europeans will be able to appeal to their own Data Protection Authorities, who will work with the US Federal Trade Commission to ensure that their complaints are investigated and resolved.

The EC added: "If a case is not resolved by any of the other means, as a last resort there will be an arbitration mechanism. Redress possibility in the area of national security for EU citizens' will be handled by an Ombudsperson independent from the US intelligence services." ®

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