05:43 GMT +314 December 2017
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    Data privacy

    Irish Privacy Rights Group Launches Legal Challenge to EU-US Data Sharing Pact

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    Campaign group Digital Rights Ireland has launched a legal challenge against the European Commission over the Privacy Shield data sharing agreement, which is designed to protect the personal data of EU citizens held on US computers from being snooped on by US spy agencies.

    The Privacy Shield agreement had to be swiftly negotiated after the European Court of Justice ruled in October 2015 that the previous EU-US data agreement — Safe Harbor — was invalid. The issue arises from the strict EU laws — enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — to the privacy of their personal data.

    The Safe Harbor agreement was a quasi-judicial understanding that the US undertook to agree that it would ensure that EU citizens' data on US servers would be held and protected under the same restrictions as it would be under EU law and directives. The data covers a huge array of information — from Internet and communications usage, to sales transactions, import and exports, in fact any data on EU citizens that is held on US servers.

    [Tweet: Who better to report on #data protection, #privacyshield and #safeharbor [and] judgement of the #EU than @maxschrems?]​

    Snowden Leaks

    The overturning of Safe Harbor came about when Maximillian Schrems, a Facebook user, lodged a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, arguing that — in the light of the revelations by ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) — the transfer of data from Facebook's Irish subsidiary onto the company's servers in the US do not provide sufficient protection of his personal data.

    ​"The Safe Harbor decision denies the national supervisory authorities their powers where a person calls into question whether the decision is compatible with the protection of the privacy and of the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals," the court ruled.

    According to the Privacy Shield agreement:

    "The US has given the EU assurance that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security is subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms.

    "Everyone in the EU will, also for the first time, benefit from redress mechanisms in this area. The US has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance on personal data transferred to the US under the EU-US Privacy Shield arrangement."

    ​However, Digital Rights Ireland has launched a legal challenge, arguing that — despite the US assurances on mass surveillance — EU citizens' data is still not secure on US servers, under the terms of EU safeguards, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Related:

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    Privacy Shield Aims to Protect Economic Interests at Expense of Personal Privacy
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    EU-US Privacy Shield Agreement to Boost Digital Economy - Commerce Dep't
    Tags:
    Internet privacy, data storage, bulk collection, mass surveillance, data collection, privacy, National Security Agency (NSA), European Court of Justice, Facebook, Max Schrems, Edward Snowden, Europe, United States, Ireland
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