New transatlantic data pact coming ‘shortly,’ says US official

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said a new data-sharing agreement to allow digital information to flow between The U.S. and European Union could come “shortly.”

The deal would come just weeks after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) invalidated a long-standing Safe Harbor data-sharing pact, leaving more than 4,000 companies scrambling to find new ways to legally transfer data between the U.S. and EU nations.

{mosads}“The solution … is Safe Harbor 2.0, which is totally doable,” Pritzker told reporters in Germany, Reuters reported.

That solution “is within hand,” Pritzker said. “We had an agreement prior to the court case. I think with modest refinements that are being negotiated we could have an agreement shortly.”

For 15 years, U.S. companies had used Safe Harbor to “self-certify” that they met the more-stringent European privacy protection laws in order to handle EU data.

But the ECJ in early October ruled that Europeans’ data was not adequately protected when transferred to the U.S., citing U.S. government surveillance programs and weak laws governing digital privacy.

Earlier this week, EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told European lawmakers that a new, more-stringent Safe Harbor pact had been agreed to “in principle,” but that a final deal may still be months away.

Jourová indicated the two sides would be engaged in “intensive technical discussions” before negotiators meet in Washington, D.C., next month.

Pritzker had higher hopes.

“I hope then that means we’re done and we have resolved this problem because it is costing a lot of money predominantly to … small and medium-sized businesses that depend on Safe Harbor,” she said.

The U.S. is also under pressure from German regulators to complete a new Safe Harbor.

Pritzker’s visit to Germany comes days after the country’s privacy regulators announced they were investigating data transfers from the European Union to the U.S. from companies such as Google and Facebook.

“Anyone who wants to remain untouched by the legal and political implications of the judgment, should in the future consider storing personal data only on servers within the European Union,” Hamburg’s Data Protection Officer Johannes Caspar told the German magazine Der Spiegel.

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