On 8 October, 2013, a group of Social and Democrat MEPs called for the suspension of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework (the “Safe Harbor”). Their comments, which were triggered by the unauthorized disclosure of document describing a U.S. National Security Agency surveillance program known as “PRISM”, argued that the Safe Harbor is, variously, “misleading,” “vulnerable,” and “ineffective.” One MEP, Claude Moraes, the S&D rapporteur for the European Parliament in the investigation into U.S. surveillance, stated that “the European Parliament should be calling for the Commission to suspend the Safe Harbor Agreement pending a full review of whether US companies fully comply with it.”
This call, which may or may not be taken up by the rest of the European Parliament, is part of a wider and still-developing European backlash against the Safe Harbor stemming from PRISM’s discovery in June of this year. The Safe Harbor has also, for example, faced resistance from privacy regulators, including the influential German Commissioner for Data Protection and Information Freedom, Peter Schaar, who, in July 2013 reportedly urged Chancellor Merkel to suspend the Safe Harbor.
Perhaps the most significant challenge to the Safe Harbor status quo, though, comes from the European Commission. On 19 July 2013, EU Vice-president and Commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, Viviane Reding, announced a review of the Safe Harbor, in order to search for “loopholes for data transfers” that might enable entities in the U.S. to undercut European data protection rules for data transferred from the EU to the U.S. The results of the review are due to be published by the end of this year.