EU Concerns over Privacy Shield Integrity Grow

Privacy Shield CracksThe likelihood of Privacy Shield being overthrown grows ever stronger as moves by the Trump administration further alarm officials in the EU.

Last week's resolution by the European Parliament expresses doubt that Trump is committed to privacy protection and calls for a rigorous re-examination of the data transfer mechanism. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) asked the European Commission to "take all necessary measures" to ensure the agreement respects EU privacy rights. 

Parliament also desires access to US documents demonstrating the specifics of how the US government is enforcing the laws supporting Privacy Shield. They also are interested in any documents regarding surveillance by US intelligence agencies.

The first yearly assessment is already scheduled for September, when US and EU officials will meet to discuss issues and concerns about the effectiveness of protection provided by Privacy Shield to citizens of the EU. When Privacy Shield was implemented the arrangement included a yearly review to ensure protection remained adequate under the requirements of the EU. Changes to the existing legal framework in the US, upon which Privacy Shield relies, could be reason for the agreement to be discontinued.

Essential to the integrity of the data flow mechanism were assurances by the Obama administration regarding US commitments to privacy. As soon as Trump was elected, with promises of de-regulation and policy changes, alarm began to grow among EU officials. Actions by the administration since taking office have lent credence to those fears. 

In January Trump signed an executive order that took away rights of non citizens under the Privacy Act. Also troubling are new rules allowing the US National Security Agency to share private data with other US agencies without court oversight, and crippling vacancies in the FCC and other bodies responsible for enforcing the laws. Last week Trump signed a deeply unpopular measure reversing laws that stopped ISPs from selling customers' web browsing history and other sensitive information without consent.

According to panelists at a recent Bloomberg Data Privacy event, there is strong EU public sentiment that the US will not comply with the principles of Privacy Shield. Vehement rhetoric against trade agreements, and incidents of Customs and Border Patrol agents forcing foreign visitors to allow the search their cell phones upon arrival in the US are deeply concerning to Europeans. 

A recent tweet by Viviane Reding, a member of the European Parliament and former VP of the European Commission said "Don't turn #PrivacyShield into Smokescreen! During its review, concrete evidence must prevail over #AlternativeFacts!" While many doubt that the resolution will result in immediate action, others fully expect Privacy Shield to crack and fail, eventually being overturned by the European Court of Justice.