Cross border online services under threat

I am worried about attempts by the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee to suspend the privacy shield which could disrupt data flows between the EU and USA. We discussed the importance of global and EU-UK data flows at my recent event with TechUK.

Once again the system which allows us to use online services based outside the EU is being questioned.

First, we had “Safe Harbour” which was designed to protect the flow of personal data from the EU to the US. This allowed US firms to provide services inside the EU without having to set up a European base, in return for agreeing to certain standards. This benefitted citizens of EU countries. It allowed them to access the newest, most innovative ideas and services from the USA and those firms offering these solutions, to serve the people who wanted to use them.

After Safe Harbour was challenged and thrown out, it was with the “EU-US Privacy Shield” but that is now also being challenged by the Civil Liberties Committee at the European Parliament. Despite a review last year which said the agreement was working, many members of the committee disagreed and have demanded that if the US does not make improvements by 1st September, this deal should be thrown out too.

Today we are voting on the issue in the European Parliament.

While the Civil Liberties committee did make a number of useful recommendations, such as appointing a permanent Privacy Shield Ombudsman, suspending the agreement would just leave firms once again in legal limbo and diminish the data protection rights of citizens of EU countries. It would probably hit smaller firms the hardest as they would be faced with urgently introducing new temporary measures, such as on contracts and corporate rules. This is not good for users, small firms and the digital economy. Let’s hope we find a better solution.

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