EU stalls on US data privacy deal



David Bicknell

The European Union is threatening to drag out a deal with the US over data privacy following premature US gloating over...



David Bicknell

The European Union is threatening to drag out a deal with the US over data privacy following premature US gloating over the recent deal between the two trading blocs.

After 18 months of talks there is a broad movement towards agreement over a principle dubbed "safe harbour". But data privacy specialists have warned that serious questions remain over how European concerns over the export of personal data can be enforced.

EU anger at being "bounced" by US officials into premature, triumphant publicity is now expected to lead to foot-dragging in the drafting of technical appendices that sum up how the agreement will work in practice. That could take up to a year, insiders said last week.

In addition, MEPs from hardline privacy countries such as the Netherlands, France and Italy are threatening to vote down any proposals put before the European Parliament, which lack teeth.

Already a group representing consumers in the US and Europe has said the safe harbour provision does not go far enough to protect the rights of the citizens in either region.

Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) - a coalition of consumer groups - said the plan still does not give EU residents the level of privacy that the law requires. TACD said the proposal is still based on the mistaken theory that industry can self-regulate.

"Based on their experience to date, US consumer organisations have little confidence in the effectiveness of the self-regulatory system for protecting the personal information of EU citizens," said a TACD statement.

TACD said it acknowledged that the text of the safe harbour agreement represented some progress in comparison to earlier drafts, but maintained its reservations on the text and on the issue of effective enforcement.

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