One of the European Union’s most senior legal advisors has delivered a hammer blow to US tech giants and cloud computing firms by ruling that the safe harbour agreement – which the allows the transfer of personal data between the US and the EU – is invalid.
Advocate General Yves Bot delivered his verdict following a case brought against Facebook by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems. He argued that the Edward Snowden disclosures show there is no effective data protection regime in the US.
And although not officially adopted by the EU Court of Justice yet, it would be highly unusual for the court not to follow Bot’s verdict.
The safe harbour agreement has been in place since 2000, although it is currently under review. It effectively allows US firms such as Google and Facebook, as well as cloud computing companies, to collect and store data on European consumers, as long as certain principles around storage and security are upheld.
But with Facebook and others have being forced to share the data of EU consumers with US intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Bot believes the deal is now invalid.
He urged member states to suspend data sharing with the US immediately and said that national data protection watchdogs do have the power to pull the plug on such activity.
A statement from the Court of Justice of the European Union read: “It is apparent that the law and practice of the US allow the large-scale collection of the personal data of citizens of the EU which is transferred, without those citizens benefiting from effective judicial protection.
“The Advocate General considers that the access enjoyed by the US intelligence services to the transferred data constitutes an interference with the right to respect for private life and the right to protection of personal data.”
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