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President Biden welcomes new data transfer pact between US and EU

Written by Thu 13 Jul 2023

The European Commission has announced a new data transfer pact with the United States. The pact aims to mitigate the legal uncertainties that have troubled numerous businesses transferring personal data across the Atlantic.

The European Commission, serving as the executive arm of the EU, said measures implemented by the United States provide an adequate level of protection for Europeans’ personal data when transferred across the Atlantic for commercial use.

The new binding protections in the data transfer pact restricting US intelligence services’ access to EU data was deemed ‘necessary and appropriate’. The establishment of a Data Protection Review Court for Europeans will also address concerns raised by Europe’s top court.

Approvals from Biden and the EU

The pact received approval from US President Joe Biden, who said that it signified a ‘joint commitment to strong data privacy protections’.

The new deal has also been approved by the European Union after Biden addressed concerns from EU courts regarding the potential unjust access to citizens’ data by American security agencies.

These agreements are fundamental to the personal data transfer across the Atlantic for services such as cloud infrastructure, banking, and payroll.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen affirmed that the EU’s executive adopted an ‘adequacy decision’, enabling thousands of firms to securely transport data to the US without contravening EU privacy law.

EU Justice Chief Didier Reynders expressed his confidence in the strength of the new data transfer principles, and is prepared to defend them against legal challenges. Reynders affirmed during a press conference that he was ‘very confident of fighting, defending the new data agreement’.

The deal was also applauded by lobbying group DigitalEurope, which represents major tech firms such as Amazon, Apple, Ericsson, Airbus, Nokia, Philips, and Samsung.

“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,” said Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director-General of DigitalEurope.

Controversy and Possible Challenges

This news was not welcomed by all, as noyb, a non-profit group led by privacy campaigner Max Schrems, plan to challenge the pact.

“Just announcing that something is ‘new,’ ‘robust’ or ‘effective’ does not cut it before the Court of Justice,” said Schrems.

Schrems pointed out that substantial changes to US surveillance law would be necessary to make the pact functional.

“We have various options for a challenge already in the drawer, although we are sick and tired of this legal ping-pong. We currently expect this to be back at the Court of Justice by the beginning of next year,” added Schrems.

The European Commission and the United States previously faced difficulties in constructing a new pact. Europe’s top court abolished two prior agreements between the EU and US.

The new pact comes after uncertainty that led Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to consider a complete withdrawal from the EU. In May, Meta was hit with a record £1.02 billion (€1.2 billion) privacy fine by the EU, and ordered to cease transporting users’ data to the US.

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Written by Thu 13 Jul 2023

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