Civil Liberties Chair calls for urgent clarity on the new Safe Harbour agreement
The European Parliament will insist on the binding and written assurances suggested by the US for the new EU-US data transfer deal, Civil Liberties Committee Chair Claude Moraes stresses after the Commission's announcement on Tuesday. The Chair expresses his "key concerns about an announcement which is not underpinned by any actual text".
The Commission on Tuesday afternoon announced that they have reached a new EU-US agreement for a "Privacy Shield" to replace Safe Harbour.
Speaking on the Commission's proposal, the Chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), said:
"The new framework announced by Commissioner Jourová has no written text and my first concern is that it has too much in common with the previous Safe Harbour decision. The announcement does not indicate any measures which are legally binding on either party, but relies on "declaration" by the US authorities on their interpretation of the legal situation regarding surveillance by the US intelligence services. Another key concern is that the creation of an Ombudsman which could be a positive step forward in assessing the complaints of citizens does not seem to be underpinned in the current statement by sufficient legal powers. We await further developments on this proposal.
It is imperative that on such an important agreement, which sees the transfer of mass EU and US business and citizens' data with such high privacy and economic implications, that the newly named agreement "Privacy Shield" is quickly developed and the concerns expressed are quickly answered. Without a stronger legal backing, the proposals announced today could again be challenged by the European Court of Justice. Members of the European Parliament will insist that we have a strong agreement that would survive such a challenge.
I am also concerned that there is no actual change in US law. Rather the agreement is based on an exchange of letters by an administration which is coming to its end. This is a shaky situation which needs to be addressed to give us confidence that "Privacy Shield" is something more substantial than is suggested in the initial announcement."
Claude Moraes added:
"The European Parliament stands ready to play its role as a watchdog to ensure that fundamental rights and privacy are upheld in any new deal. It is imperative that our concerns about this announcement are answered. "
Note to editors
Following a complaint by Austrian citizen Max Schrems, the European Court of Justice on Tuesday 6 October 2015 declared invalid the Commission's decision to consider the data protection rendered by the Safe Harbour agreement "adequate". After the court ruling, which effectively killed off the agreement, national data protection authorities gave the Commission until the end of January 2016 to finalise negotiations with the US for a new framework on data transfers that would meet EU data protection standards.
Commissioner Jourová updated MEPs on the Civil Liberties Committee on progress made in the talks on Monday night. The agreement reached on the new Privacy Shield was announced on Tuesday afternoon.
The European Parliament has repeatedly called for the suspension of Safe Harbour, most recently in its 2014 resolution on the surveillance carried out by the NSA.