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MEP lashes out at European Commission over Privacy Shield inaction

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Privacy advocate and MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht has hit out at the European Commission (hereafter known as the Gaggle of Red-tapers) as continued inaction leaves the EU-US Privacy Shield in a precarious position.

At a time where data protection and privacy is at the top of the agenda for political heavyweights around world, the Gaggle of Red-tapers has been relatively redundant in its actions. In truth, the Gaggle has been doing a lot of talking over the last couple of months, but lacked the ability to comprehend the many warnings which it had received over EU-US Privacy Shield; it’s not good enough.

“The Privacy Shield does not make the US a safe haven. Personal data from people in the European Union is not being adequately protected against access by intelligence services in the US,” said Vice-Chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee Jan Philipp Albrecht. “People in the EU have no real rights when it comes to accessing their data or having it deleted.

“The European Justice Commissioner should not allow the US government to palm her off with non-binding declarations of intent or letters of assurance. Vera Jourová must increase the pressure on the US government to make the Privacy Shield a genuine safeguard.”

While the majority of the Gaggle of Red-tapers seem happy to blindly wander towards the digital economy, with data privacy safeguards which could protect a packet of Quavers, Albrecht has been one of the outspoken bureaucrats who has been more positive in his actions to ensure the rights of European citizens are extended abroad.

This statement would appear to be a sign the patience of the privacy advocate has finally run out, and to be honest, we have some sympathy for Albrecht. How many times does the Gaggle of Red-tapers need to be told the framework is inadequate before anything is done about it?

The statement from Albrecht comes after the majority of MEPs on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee backed a resolution declaring the mass surveillance system in the US to be incompatible with EU law. Such actions contradict the protections which are supposed to be in place in the EU-US Privacy Shield, which apparently regulates transfer of personal data from the EU to the US, theoretically protecting the rights of EU citizens internationally.

Considering the importance of data protection and privacy, there were a lot of hedging statements in that paragraph…

“Time is running out. From May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation will apply throughout the European Union,” said Albrecht. “If the Privacy Shield remains full of holes, the European Commission runs the risk that the European Court of Justice will overturn the scheme.

“Data protection authorities must prohibit the transfer of data to the US if they have the slightest suspicion of mass surveillance. The Trump administration has already shown that it is not concerned about data protection.”

Such statements from Albrecht, albeit completely justified, are likely to fall on deaf ears, in a very similar way warnings from respected industry bodies to the Gaggle of Red-tapers on the inadequacies of the EU-US Privacy did last year.

The inadequacies in the framework were highlighted by both the European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, as well as Article 29 Working Group, a well-respected data protection advocacy group. In both instances, concerns were registered over eight months ago, focusing on the fact the policy was not robust enough to maintain European principles in the states, or withstand the scrutiny of the European Court of Justice, which struck down the predecessor, Safe Harbour.

Albrecht’s warning comes with just over a year left as business ramp up towards the EU GDPR deadline, with concerns the EU-US Privacy Shield will be shot down in May if the holes haven’t been filled.

Your concerns are completely valid Jan Phillipe, however the blame will lie solely on the doorstep of the Gagglers who ignored prior warnings.


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