On October 6th of this year, the Court of Justice for the European Union ended a safe harbor that had been in place for about fifteen years.

In the mid nineties, the European Union (EU) increased privacy protections for all their citizens with the Data Protection Directive. Even prior to this directive, the EU had been interested in protecting the privacy of data. A large part of the directive was to prevent transfer of data to a third country that would protect the data less that the current EU regulation. The United States (US) was able to negotiate with the EU to create safe harbor principle that would allow US companies a streamline cost effective process to be approved to or allowed to transfer data from the EU to servers located in the US.

However, recently one EU citizen filed a complaint alleging that data transferred to US servers, specifically Facebook data, was not protected in accordance with the Data Protection Directive as required by safe harbor as evidenced by the information that Edward Snowden brought to light in 2013. In 2013, a whistleblower brought evidence of how the National Security Agency has been accessing, collecting, and reviewing private information and date from Americans.

The Court of Justice for the European Union decision reasoned that in the US national security, public interest, and law enforcement concerns overrule any privacy interest that US may have undertaken in the safe harbor agreement. Additionally there is no remedy available to any of the EU residents, whose privacy is violated. Therefore the Court concluded that the safe harbor decision and agreement was invalid and the complainant’s issue may go forward to decide if Facebook’s subsidiaries violate EU privacy policy by transferring data to servers in the US.

As of last week it did not seem as though Silicon Valley was worried. Most technology companies seem to be stating that after this decision their privacy protections are still in line with the EU privacy policies. Even Facebook seems unfazed.

This is a case to follow as continued investigation is completed.

Cassidi Hammock


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