October 7, 2015

No More Safe Harbor – What is Next?

Gardner Peckham, John Schmitz, Martina Simpkins

What is Next?
(Washington D.C., October 7, 2015) Earlier this week, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg struck down the 15-year old US-EU Safe Harbor Agreement. More than 4,400 companies operating in the U.S. and in Europe who relied on the Agreement to transfer personal data across the Atlantic suddenly find themselves in a compliance gray zone. The Court’s decision does not grant companies a grace period in which to bring their data transfer practices into compliance.
In the short term, many companies will find themselves scrambling to adjust their data privacy architecture and compliance regimes, for example to adopt so-called Binding Corporate Rules. National data protection authorities in the EU member states are expected to be overwhelmed in the coming weeks by consumer complaints about data transfers to the U.S. that took place within the framework of the now invalid agreement. Despite this, many national authorities relish this “win” and their newly broadened responsibilities. The head of the German authority called the decision a “milestone for data protection.”
In the longer term, the decision is yet another sign of the serious rift between Europe and the U.S. with respect to data privacy, internet surveillance and national security.  Just as advocates for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) hoped that the conclusion of the TPP trade agreement this week would allow for an increased focus on the transatlantic negotiations, this disconnect between Europe and the US threatens to further disrupt discussions on important issues like cross-border data flows.  Companies relying on transatlantic data transfers are well advised to follow these developments closely.
Prime Policy Group and our specialized Prime Policy Transatlantic Group team provide seamless and simultaneous government relations services in Washington, Brussels and Berlin. We regularly interact with the major policymakers on both continents with responsibility for the Safe Harbor Agreement and the ongoing negotiations for strengthening it. Given this week’s developments, there will be a renewed emphasis on rapidly completing those negotiations and in this context we are well-positioned to ensure that our clients’ interests are protected. If you have any questions, please contact Gardner Peckham (gardner.peckham@prime-policy.com) , John Schmitz (john.schmitz@prime-policy.com),or Martina Simpkins (martina.simpkins@prime-policy.com) at 202-530-0500.