Breathing Confidence into Transatlantic Data

This February saw the EU & US take a leap forward in strengthening transatlantic digital and data relations by signing two new agreements, the Data Privacy Shield and the Judicial Redress Act. Both pieces of legislation aim to provide a legal foundation and basis for individuals and businesses to trade, work and exchange information.

EU-US relations surrounding data and privacy have been strained in recent times, highlighted by the controversy surrounding ACTA and the Snowden revelations. However, with these two new agreements both the US and the EU have moved to achieve a new gold standard for data protection, digital redress and the promotion of data transfers bilaterally and globally.

Firstly, the Data Privacy Shield ensures that US companies protect personal data of Europeans, guaranteeing that US authorities maintain stronger enforcement and work in cooperation with European Data Protection authorities. This new shield has put in place an Ombudsperson mechanism which will allows for individuals to raise concerns directly.

For TTIP this confidence and grounding is crucial, as the UN estimates that 50% of all traded services are enabled by the technology sector and data flows. In 2014 a survey of EU and US small businesses found that 60% of them use data analytics to aid them in growing and developing. Therefore, data and digital assurances are vital in helping these small businesses feel confident using global data whilst at home, let alone trading in new markets abroad. SMEs need to be online and need to be using data if they are to survive, an online SME has a survival rate of 54% compared to 24% of an offline business, that is why it is important that TTIP is supported by strong transatlantic data provisions.

The second digital success was the Judicial Redress Act, this act goes one step further than the Data Privacy Shield, not only providing confidence in the use of data abroad, but also providing privacy rights to European individuals whose data is utilised in America. Previously, the US Privacy Act of 1974 only protected US citizens, now it gives legal digital rights to all individuals.

The Judicial Redress Act represents the recognition that data is borderless and that there is a need for international solutions for issues of data. TTIP represents that very opportunity to set global standards, with the Judicial Redress Act the EU and US are setting a mutual recognition of privacy rights for all nationalities. 

Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, who is responsible for concluding negotiations with the USA on data protection, said

"I welcome the signature of the Judicial Redress Act by President Obama today. This new law is a historic achievement in our efforts to restore trust in transatlantic data flows. The Judicial Redress Act will ensure that all EU citizens have the right to enforce data protection rights in U.S. courts [...]

The entry into force of the Judicial Redress Act will pave the way for the signature of the EU-U.S. Data Protection Umbrella Agreement. This agreement will guarantee a high level of protection of all personal data, regardless of nationality, when transferred across the Atlantic for law enforcement purposes. It will strengthen privacy, while ensuring legal certainty for transatlantic data exchanges between police and criminal justice authorities. This is crucial to keep Europeans safe through efficient and robust cooperation between the EU and the U.S. in the fight against crime and terrorism.

In parallel, the Commission is working to put in place the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, ensuring a high level of data protection for commercial data transfers, as agreed on 2 February"