STRASBOURG – Following tough negotiations, the European Union and the United States on February 2 reached a new agreement, providing a renewed and safe framework for transatlantic data flows. The EU-US Privacy Shield will replace the Safe Harbor Framework.
EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová spoke to New Europe in an interview in Strasbourg, following a press conference announcing the deal.
In 2013, trust between the EU and US was damaged after Edward Snowden unveiled the scope of the American surveillance in Europe while Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems‘ appeal to the European Court if Justice (EJC) helped tear down Safe Harbour.
Jourová said she is convinced that a new functioning bridge between EU and US partners has started.
New Europe: Commissioner, whistleblower Edward Snowden was a game changer. Do you think the trust been restored now?
Commissioner Věra Jourová: At least the trust has been restored between the Commission and the partners on the American side, especially with the Department of Commerce and ODNI, the office of national security. We will have to work hard on restoring the trust also among the European citizens. And how will we do it? We will ask the companies transferring the data from EU to US to be transparent about, for instance, the number of requests they had to deal with, requests from the side of the American national security bodies and they will have to be transparent about how they comply with the rules under the Privacy Shield system.
NE: That would be American and European companies?
Jourová: Yes, these are companies from both sides of Atlantic. When I discussed with the heads of many companies, they all said in this digital world, trust is essential. So I think I can say that I believe them and I rely on them that they will also be the important element, the important actor in renewing trust and increasing trust among the European citizens.
NE: You mentioned briefly about sanctions and removal of companies from the list so is the EU now prepared to a harder stance if necessary?
Jourová: This will be the decision of the department of Commerce on the American side. Once they find out that some company does not comply with the rules, as a maximum of civil sanctions will be delisting the company from the system.
NE: The EU would push this issue if there were a breach of trust with a company?
Jourová: This can happen also on the basis of our recommendations or our findings because, as Mr [Vice President for the Digital Single Market on the European Commission Andrus] Ansip said, this will be a continuous process and we have started this – I am convinced – functioning bridge between EU and US partners and we will have to care for this new scheme.
NE: The annual monitoring would be to also change aspects of the agreement or is the agreement more-or-less finalised?
Jourová: This is part of the commitments on American side because we will want both the Department of Commerce and the national security bodies to contribute to the annual review. There will be also the Federal Committee of Trade on American side and Data Protection authorities on European side contributing to this annual review and it will be the main source of information for the Commission, which will access this review and access the functioning of Privacy Shield. And then, once we find that the system does not work properly, we will negotiate the stronger commitments or some functional organisational changes, whatever. But I don’t want to predict such situation. Anyway, this annual assessment will be important.