Data protection agreements are an important part of EU-US relations, and the Privacy Shield pact and Umbrella Agreement will continue under Donald Trump’s administration, EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told EURACTIV Czech Republic.
Despite questions remaining on how Donald Trump will approach the European Union, Justice Commissioner Jourová is confident that his administration will not backtrack on crucial data protection agreements.
“I have been assured by insiders that President Trump and his administration do understand the importance of trade relations between the United States and the European Union,” Jourová told EURACTIV.cz.
“A significant part of the EU-US trade exchange depends also on personal data transfers. Therefore, I believe that the Privacy Shield should go on and that it is also in the interest of the American side,” the Commissioner said.
According to Jourová, who was responsible for negotiations on the new framework for transatlantic exchange of personal data for commercial purposes, the Privacy Shield agreement is an important element of strategic cooperation between Europe and the United States.
Jourová said that Trump’s approach towards the EU still remained unclear. Nevertheless, she plans to visit Washington as soon as possible. The Commissioner would like to meet Jeff Sessions, who is supposed to become the new Attorney General, and Wilbur Ross, who is expected to be Trump’s Commerce Secretary.
Yahoo! under the microscope
The Privacy Shield pact was brokered In July last year and replaced the old Safe Harbour agreement which was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice in 2015.
The new framework allows companies to transfer personal data to the US on the condition that they guarantee it is protected to privacy standards on par with EU laws.
“At the moment, 1,100 companies have already joined the system and about 700 others are going through an authorisation process,” Jourová said.
Potential complaints, submitted by Europeans whose personal data would be abused by American law-enforcement agencies, should be handled by an ombudsperson independent from the US intelligence services.
According to the Czech Commissioner, the authority has not received any relevant complaint yet. But she said her team was concerned with the recent information that Yahoo! secretly monitored emails at the request of American secret services. The Commissioner said this could be a case for the US Ombudsman.
Jourová also wants to talk to the new American administration about another data protection agreement negotiated between the EU and the US – the so-called Umbrella Agreement.
It should cover personal data exchanged between police and criminal justice authorities of the EU member states and the US federal authorities for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences.
Under the agreement, Europeans should be protected in American courts in cases where federal authorities misuse their personal data.
“At the moment, I am waiting for the American side to confirm that the new regime will cover all agencies and authorities working with such data. There are more than one hundred of them,” Jourová told EURACTIV.