In a landmark decision Tuesday, the European Court of Justice ruled that European Union regulators can override the Safe Harbor agreement, a 15-year-old accord that has — until now — allowed Apple, Google, Facebook, and about 4,500 other U.S. companies to transfer data from European users to the U.S.
The court believes that the current agreement violates European citizens’ right to privacy by exposing their private data to the U.S. government through the American companies’ cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies.
The big companies who rely on this agreement, like Apple, will most likely rush to try and appeal the ruling, or at least quickly come to another agreement that will allow them to do business in Europe, which of course includes personal data from users.
Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation believes this ruling will cause a huge disruption to the companies currently operating under the Safe Harbor agreement.
“Aside from taking an ax to the undersea fiber-optic cables connecting Europe to the United States, it is hard to imagine a more disruptive action to trans-Atlantic digital commerce,” Castro said in a statement.
U.S. tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google (which makes 90 percent of its revenue from advertising) face a loss of that very same revenue if the court’s decision stands unchanged.
It’s a fact of modern life that after Edward Snowden exposed U.S. surveillance on internet and phone communications in 2013 most of the rest of the world is concerned that their own private data will be targeted by U.S. spymasters if technology continues to flow through the U.S.
The answer is to come up with a better agreement than the one hammered out in 2000.
The court’s decision won’t shut down data transfers overnight, but does give regulators in the EU the ability to investigate and shut them down if they feel like there are not enough protections in place.
Source: Wall Street Journal