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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Advocacy Groups Call on EU to Re-evaluate Privacy Shield

On February 28, two prominent advocacy groups, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch, called upon European officials to re-examine assurances about privacy protection they received from the U.S. government, assurances that form the foundation of both the Privacy Shield agreement and the U.S.-EU umbrella agreement concerning exchanges of information for law enforcement purposes.  The letter, sent to key officials in the European Commission, the EU Parliament and the Article 29 Working Party, argued that the assurances had been undermined by President Trump’s executive order on enhancing public safety and by the deterioration and lapse of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).  Although former and current FTC Commissioners have contended that the executive order does not impact recently-extended Privacy Act protections for Europeans, the advocacy groups offer a detailed analysis of three ways in which these protections have been significantly reduced by the order.  They also contended that oversight by a fully-functioning PCLOB was clearly an important factor in the European Commission’s adequacy decision with respect to Privacy Shield.

Two days later, in an interview with Bloomberg, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said she "will not hesitate" to suspend the Privacy Shield framework if the Trump administration makes significant changes in the understandings that underpin the agreement.  Jourova will be meeting with U.S. officials in Washington later this month, seeking reconfirmation and reassurances about these understandings.  According to Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg DPA, “the disruptive political style of the new U.S. administration fills anyone working in the field of privacy with concern,” adding that “You don’t need to gaze into a crystal ball to see that the air surrounding the Privacy Shield is becoming thinner.”

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