Safe Harbor – On Hold?

February 18, 2014

On 28 January 2014, Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Justice Commissioner, gave a speech at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) think tank, calling for “A data protection compact for Europe“. While the main focus was to speed up the EU Data Protection Reform, she also addressed the Safe Harbor’s bilateral agreement, which regulates data transfers between the EU and U.S. for commercial purposes. This agreement has been widely questioned by the EU since Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance.

Reding stressed steps that must be taken “to rebuild trust in EU-U.S. data flows.” First priority is that the Safe Harbor must be made safer, must be strengthened. The Commission has warned that the U.S. has until this summer to get this done. In the absence of sufficient remedies, the EU would suspend the Safe Harbor program, which has been facilitating transatlantic data flows since October 1998.

She mentioned the 13 recommendations made by the EU Commission in November 2013 to reinforce all aspects of Safe Harbor functioning. Those recommendations are based on principles such as transparency toward consumers, redress in case of breach of data protection rules, effective enforcement and regulation of access by U.S. authorities.