Two weeks after introducing the controversial travel ban, US President Donald Trump’s latest executive order has potentially blown a huge hole in transatlantic data transfers, amid claims the move has scrapped data privacy protection rights from EU citizens’ information handled in the US.
Privacy Shield negotiations were torrid enough under the Obama administration and any prospect that Trump’s “protectionist” stance could wipe out the hard-won agreement is likely to send shockwaves through the data industry.
Section 14 of the executive order states: “Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.”
The move has certainly brought a swift response from MEPs, with data protection rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht quick to point out that it undermines transatlantic agreements on protecting EU citizens’ rights, including the Privacy Shield accord.
Meanwhile EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova, who is set to travel to the US later this month to prepare the first annual joint review of Privacy Shield, has also waded into the row.
“I need to be reassured that Privacy Shield can remain,” she said. “I need to have reconfirmation that there is continuity.”
The European Commission, however, has tried to allay these fears, insisting that the new legislation would prevent protection being removed for EU citizens’ data in the US and that the EU-US Umbrella Agreement comes into force this week.
“We are aware of the executive order on public safety,” said the spokesman. “The US Privacy Act has never offered data protection rights to Europeans. The commission negotiated two additional instruments to ensure that EU citizens’ data is duly protected when transferred to the US.”
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