End of EU Data Privacy Safe Harbor Blockade in Sight?

Negotiators from the European Union and the United States are in the process of negotiating a new agreement that would effectively remove the blockade to the EU Data Privacy Safe Harbor for U.S. companies. We previously wrote about a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which opened U.S. companies up to potential fines for not protecting their data from U.S. government surveillance programs. Given the potential impact against companies like Facebook and other companies that utilize personal information, EU and U.S. leaders are scrambling to come up with a new agreement that would substantively replace the safe harbor provision invalidated by the ECJ.

The next evaluation of negotiations will take place on December 17, 2015. The goal is to have a new agreement in place by the end of January 2016. However, some in the EU are not optimistic that an agreement will be reached by that time. This could potentially lead to enforcement actions (and heavy fines) against U.S. entities who cannot demonstrate that they are protecting personal information from surveillance efforts by the U.S. Government. Companies that deal with personal data of EU customers should prepare themselves for the possibility that an agreement will not be reached and consult with legal counsel as to how to proceed based on the company’s specific situation.

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