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Data exchange talks lag, jeopardizing US firms' ability to operate in Europe

Loek Essers | Nov. 21, 2014
Thanks to revelations about government spying, a revamped version of a 15-year-old agreement governing the exchange of personal data between EU and the U.S. still seems a long way off, threatening the ability of American companies to do business in Europe.

"These are every challenging issues," Dean said. "I have heard folks when I have been in Europe say things that to U.S. ears sound a little bit like: 'You Americans just don't understand privacy'. And I've heard things being said in the United States that I think to European ears sounds a bit like: 'We live in a dangerous world and you just don't get it'. Neither one of those characterizations is true."

The DOC wants to keep the Safe Harbor agreement in place to make sure all of the approximately 3,800 companies that signed up for it can continue to do business in Europe.

His wish to keep the agreement alive was backed by Julie Brill , a commissioner at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has been acting as an enforcement authority for the Safe Harbor deal.

"I think Safe Harbor is a deeply important tool for consumer protection and privacy," she said.

She also vowed that the FTC will use the tool to bring enforcement action against companies, including Facebook or Google, if appropriate. "So I have said, please don't take it away from me. As a law enforcement official, I do not want any tools taken away," she said.

Having listened to the views of the conference attendees, Henriette Tielemans, a Brussels-based data protection lawyer who is also an IAPP board member, said: "I take from that there is hope. There seems to be a very great determination on both sides to make this happen. But there is still a long way to go."


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