EU, United States agree on
changes to strengthen data transfer pact
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[June 24, 2016]
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union
and the United States have agreed changes to a data transfer pact
that is key to transatlantic business, including stricter rules for
companies holding information on Europeans and clearer limits on
The revised EU-U.S. Privacy Shield was sent for review by European
member states overnight. They are expected to hold a vote in early
July, several EU sources said, at which point it will enter into
Cross-border data transfers by businesses include payroll and human
resources information as well as lucrative data used for targeted
online advertising, which is of particular importance to tech
However, revelations of mass U.S. surveillance practices three years
ago caused political outrage in Europe and fuelled distrust of big
U.S. tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple.
Brussels and Washington rushed to hammer out the data pact after the
EU's highest court last year struck down the previous system, Safe
Harbour, on concerns about mass U.S. surveillance practices,
threatening data flows that are key to billions of dollars of
For 15 years Safe Harbour allowed both U.S. and European firms to
get around tough EU data transferral rules by stating they complied
with European privacy standards when storing information on U.S.
EU privacy regulators expressed concern about an initial deal struck
The U.S. government has now explained further the specific
conditions under which intelligence services might have to collect
data in bulk and safeguards on how the data is used, EU sources
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A letter from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, seen by
Reuters, gives an example of the United States seeking information on the
activities of a terrorist group in the Middle East believed to be plotting
attacks against Europe.
If Washington does not have information such as names, phone numbers or email
addresses it would collect communications "to and from that region for further
review and analysis to identify those communications that relate to the group,"
the letter says.
"Thus, even when targeting through the use of specific selectors is not
possible, the United States does not collect all communications from all
communications facilities in the world."
The United States also explained how a new privacy official - whose role would
be to field complaints from EU citizens about U.S. spying - would be independent
from the intelligence services.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by Philip Blenkinsop/Keith Weir)
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