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January 15, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 10:08am

EU privacy regulators set February date for new Safe Harbour data rules

News: Solution still to be found after Safe Harbour rules declared invalid.

By Charlotte Henry

Data protection authorities in the EU will meet in Brussels on February 2nd 2016 to try and resolve how companies can move data between Europe and the US.

The move comes after Safe Harbour, which over 4,000 firms had used to move EU data to the US for 15 years, was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) back in October 2015.

The United States is not considered to have high enough privacy safeguards to comply with EU data protection law on data moved to countries outside the EU.

Reuters reports that this week how the US put forward a new set of proposals, which included a letter from Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker laying out her countries commitments towards oversight of the potential new Safe Harbour framework.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance programmes by the American National Security Agency (NSA), in which it collected private data from tech giants like Apple, Facebook, and Google, caused consternation in Europe. The information kick started the process that eventually led to the ECJ ruling in 2015.

Data protection authorities in Brussels gave firms a three month grace period in which to come up with an alternative legal basis with which they could transfer data between the EU and the US. This could include binding corporate rules in multinational firms, model clauses between companies, or asking people for their consent.

During that same three month period the data protection authorities want lawmakers in Brussels and Washington to come to an agreement on a new data transfer framework.

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If this does not happen, they could start taking enforcement action against firms if they that alternatives are not giving users greater privacy protection from US surveillance than Safe Harbour did previously.

The French data protection authority will chair the meeting.

Johannes Caspar, head of the Hamburg data protection authority in Germany governs both Google and Facebook said: "It is evident that we will sanction any transfers of personal data which are solely based on the old safe harbour decision," said Johannes Caspar, head of the Hamburg data protection authority in Germany which polices Google and Facebook.

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