E.U. Commissioners call for new Safe Harbor framework

Access Now says U.S. surveillance reform is a necessary precondition to a new framework

Brussels, Belgium – Earlier today, European Commissioners Věra Jourová and Andrus Ansip held a press conference on transatlantic data transfer. The Commissioners discussed guidance for transatlantic data movement for companies engaged in such transfers. The Commissioners also called for the establishment of a new Safe Harbor agreement with the United States, though no substantive privacy or surveillance reforms have yet passed. Access Now welcomes the effort to create a new framework, but warns that substantial reform to U.S. surveillance authorities is a necessary precondition.

“We should aggressively pursue a new framework agreement, but we must not put the interests of business ahead of the human rights of E.U. citizens,” said European Policy Analyst Estelle Masse. “By committing to an aggressive January 2016 deadline for provisional data transfer mechanisms, the Commission has opted for sped-up, closed-door negotiations rather than a thorough legislative process, risking the sacrifice of Europeans’ privacy for expediency. Any new framework must be founded on solid surveillance reforms on both sides of the Atlantic.

In October, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the Safe Harbor framework did not ensure adequate protection for the data of European Union citizens transferred to U.S. companies. The judgment responded to the revelations of U.S. surveillance activities carried out under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.

“Without substantive changes, a temporary fix to allow business to continue as usual misses the point. The Court of Justice of the European Union made clear in the Schrems judgment that the status quo cannot stand,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager. “In order to establish a permanent solution to ‘Safe Harbor,’ it is up the United States government to meaningfully reform pervasive surveillance practices. We need more than assurances. We demand legal protections for all people.”