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Exclusive data protection news - 12 March 2014

12 March 2014

European Parliament adopts Data Protection Regulation

Earlier today, the European Parliament adopted the General Data Protection Regulation in Strasbourg. There was broad agreement by all parties and by a clear vote of 621 in favour to 10 against and 22 abstentions.

Speaking afterwards, the EU's Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding said "The message the European Parliament is sending is unequivocal: This reform is a necessity, and now it is irreversible".

Before the Regulation becomes law, it has to be jointly adopted by the Council and the Parliament, which is expected to occur sometime this year.

House of Lords Committee hears the case for Safe Harbor reform

The House of Lords Home Affairs, Health and Education EU Sub-Committee today began its scrutiny of the EU Commission's Safe Harbor proposals by questioning four leading authorities on data flows between Europe and the United States.

In a 90 minute session, attended by Speechly Bircham, the panellists discussed the merits and considerable shortcomings of the Safe Harbor scheme as it stands.

A privacy advocate told the Committee that Safe Harbor's integrity was being undermined as one in seven companies falsely claim that they are members of the scheme.

The panel also raised concerns of the distinct lack of public knowledge about Safe Harbor, the lack of transparency by the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission in dealing with complaints and the insufficient enforcement action against non-compliant companies.

Despite its drawbacks, however, the panel agreed that Safe Harbor facilitates global business. One authority explained that Safe Harbor may also be better than other alternative data transfer mechanisms, such as Binding Corporate Rules and data export contracts.

For start-ups, this means that the quicker time period and lower cost of becoming Safe Harbor-certified is advantageous, whilst for large multinationals with complicated business structures, Safe Harbor offers an easier opportunity to legitimately transfer vast volumes of data across the Atlantic.

The experts were divided over the future of Safe Harbor with one side favouring a "planned, strategic shut-down" of the programme as part of an incentive for Americans to take EU data privacy concerns seriously.

The other side, conversely, told the Committee that they were firmly against such a suspension, noting that the mere threat of this had had a noticeable recent adverse effect on companies in the States and business deals concluded.

Whilst opinions were divided on the exact form of future trans-Atlantic data flows, one thing was apparent - change in some form needs to happen in light of last year's NSA intelligence collection programme and Safe Harbor's failings.

This article was written by Robert Bond.

For more information contact Robert on +44 (0)20 7427 6660 or robert.bond@crsblaw.com