Bilateral privacy deal goes ahead

David Bicknell

David Bicknell

The European Commission has rubber-stamped its proposed "safe harbour" agreement with the US over the transfer of data between the two continents, despite European Parliament disapproval of the deal.

The deal, which comes after two years of wrangling, is intended to protect the personal data of European citizens. Although privacy is normally protected by national law, because the US has looser rules, largely governed by self-regulation, a bilateral agreement needed to be put in place.

Hardliners hoped the European Parliament's voting down of the proposed agreement would force a renegotiation of the deal. They believe the US had not gone far enough on two principles - access to data, and enforcement of the proposals.

One of the sticking points had been that no US government body was in place to police privacy, with even the hardline advocate of privacy laws the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reluctant to play the role of "privacy policeman".

Now, after the European Commission warned that it was under pressure to renegotiate the deal's terms, a bipartisan group of US senators has proposed a privacy bill that would require Web sites to post clear information, with potential fines of up to $20,000 (£12,500), overseen by the FTC.

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