EU and US Reach Data Privacy Agreement, Ensuring Safe Data Flows

The European Union’s executive body and the United States have agreed on a deal allowing the safe flow of data across the transatlantic divide, giving companies reassurance that their data is protected.

On Monday, the European Commission adopted a so-called adequacy decision, recognizing the US as a country with sufficient protection for Europeans’ personal data that’s sent there/ The deal, known as EU-US Data Privacy Framework, revives transatlantic exchanges underpinning billions’ worth of digital trade after the EU’s top court struck down two previous agreements over fears of U.S. intelligence agencies’ snooping.

The Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said in a statement on Monday: “The new EU-U. S. Data Privacy Framework will ensure safe data flows for Europeans and bring legal certainty to companies on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The US President, Joe Biden, had addressed warnings from EU courts that American security agencies could unfairly access citizens’ data. The new pact was also backed by a majority of the EU countries, with 24 in favor and three abstaining, according to a record of the vote.

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The move was met with criticism from privacy activist Max Schrems, who leads the nonprofit group noyb. He suggested that the agreement was inadequate and that “we would need changes in U.S. surveillance law to make this work.”

EU justice chief Didier Reynders assured that the framework was secure. “The principles of the data privacy framework are solid and I am convinced that we have made significant progress which meets the requirements of the European Court of Justice case law,” Reynders said at a news conference.

A statement from the Commission also noted that the U.S. government on July 3 said it had fulfilled its requirements under the agreement.

The agreement is great news for multinational corporations that rely on digital data technology. DigitalEurope, a lobbying group whose members include Apple, Amazon, Nokia and Samsung, welcomed the pact.

Director-General Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl remarked, “Data flows underpin the EU’s annual 1 trillion euros of service exports to the United States, and this decision will give companies more confidence to conduct business and help our economies to grow.”

Despite the efforts of the Commission, uncertainty remains around U.S. surveillance systems. Privacy activists have voiced discontent not at the legislation, but rather the lack of concrete guarantees from the U.S. on the level of access granted to law enforcement on data sharing. The agreement still awaits formal approval from the European Parliament, and it looks likely that Max Schrems’ legal challenge will be heard at the European Court of Justice by the start of next year.