U.S. Congress begins responding to a post “Safe Harbor” world

Much of the world’s digital economy relies on the free flow of data. So when a European court recently struck down an agreement known as “Safe Harbor,” which authorized data transfers between the United States and Europe, it sent shock waves across the Atlantic. Now companies and governments are trying to figure out what to do.

Today the United States Congress held its first public hearings on digital trade after the “Safe Harbor” ruling. How companies treat your private data — and how governments get access to that data — is vitally important to your privacy and your digital security. That means it is vitally important to Access Now.

In advance of the hearing, Access Now sent several recommendations to Members of the House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. In our letter, we emphasized the importance of the U.S. government moving toward compliance with human rights obligations and respect for privacy and data protection. The changes are a prerequisite to a new mechanism for the exchange of data between the U.S. and the E.U.

In the letter, Access Now recommended the following five fixes:

  • The United States must recognize its human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Reform United States surveillance practices
  • Pass data protection legislation
  • Pass data breach notification legislation
  • Pursue Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty reform

Today’s hearing is only the beginning. In order to ensure the proper protections for individuals’ rights in the global digital economy, the United States government must make some serious changes. We’re looking forward to working with Members of Congress to ensure that we can all enjoy the benefits of technology that respects our human rights.

P.S. For those of you interested in learning more, here is a link to the committee hearing. It was held on November 3, 2015 before the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. The hearing was called “International Data Flows: Promoting Digital Trade in the 21st Century.”