On Thursday 16 July 2020, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Privacy Shield agreement, which allows the transfer of personal data between the European Union and the United States of America, does not provide sufficient protection against US surveillance for EU citizens. Van Eecke: “With the optimization and development of the existing Safe Harbor system and the addition of a solid application layer, we could come up with a practical solution of the week. This is what government officials are working on, who are now hampered by the court`s decision. In a two-year-old case, brought by Austrian data protection advocate Max Schrems to the EU Supreme Court, the EUCJ ruled that the European Commission`s transatlantic data protection agreement, which came into force in 2000, was not valid because it did not adequately protect consumers in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Now that the 2000 agreement has been declared invalid, U.S. companies – including Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft – can no longer rely on self-certification and must each time try to obtain standard contract clauses. These agreements allow the transmission of data outside Europe. The Safe Harbor Agreement between the EC and the US Government essentially promised to protect the data of EU citizens if it was transferred to the US by US companies. Patrick Van Eecke, co-head of DLA Piper`s global data protection practice, said: “The advantage of the Safe Harbor was to act as a kind of one-stop shop that allowed personal data to be exported to the United States, regardless of country of origin, without having to obtain consent or enter into bilateral agreements. Following the events surrounding Edward Snowden, the European Parliament has issued a suspension of the Safe Harbour.
The suspension is expected to increase pressure to strengthen the rules of the Safe Harbor Agreement, and came with the recommendations of the Data Protection Working Group. Pending the outcome of the ongoing discussions between the United States and the European Union, the suspension may be maintained if the outcome is not favourable. The European Court of Justice ruled that the “safe harbor” agreement, which allowed the transmission of data from European citizens to the United States, is no longer valid.