EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

In the wake of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (“ECJ”) Schrems II decision invalidating the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) but upholding the validity of standard contractual clauses (“SCCs”), the U.S. government has released a White Paper entitled “Information on U.S. Privacy Safeguards Relevant to SCCs and Other EU Legal Bases for EU-U.S. Data Transfers after Schrems II.”  The Schrems II ruling requires companies relying on SCCs “to verify, on a case-by-case basis,” whether the level of protections afforded by the SCCs are respected and observed in the recipient country.  According to the cover letter accompanying the White Paper, it “outlines the robust limits and safeguards in the United States pertaining to government access to data” as part of “an effort to assist organizations in assessing whether their transfers offer appropriate data protection in accordance with the ECJ’s ruling.”

The cover letter emphasizes that while the White Paper is intended to help companies make the case that they can transfer personal data from the EU to the United States in compliance with EU law, it does not “eliminate the urgent need for clarity from European authorities or the onerous compliance burdens generated by the Schrems II decision.”  It concludes by citing the importance of the “$7.1 trillion transatlantic economic relationship” and stating that “the Trump Administration is exploring all options at its disposal and remains committed to working with the European Commission to negotiate a solution that satisfies the ECJ’s requirements while protecting the interests of the United States.”
Continue Reading U.S. Government Issues White Paper on Privacy Safeguards Following Schrems II

The Court of Justice of the European Union’s recent decision in the “Schrems II’ case was one of the most highly anticipated decisions in the world of data privacy, striking down the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, but upholding the validity of standard contractual clauses.

Tune in to the first episode of Covington’s Inside Privacy Audiocast, where

Today, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a landmark decision striking down the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield—an agreement between EU and U.S. authorities authorizing transfers of EU personal data to the United States—but upholding the validity of standard contractual clauses (“SCCs”), another mechanism that EU-based organizations use to transfer data internationally. Covington represents BSA | The Software Alliance (“BSA”) in the case, and key aspects of BSA’s arguments on the validity of SCCs were reflected in the Court’s decision.

Continue Reading EU’s Highest Court Strikes Down Privacy Shield But Upholds Other Key International Data Transfer Mechanism

On October 23, 2019, the European Commission (“Commission”) published its Report on the third annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) (the Report is accompanied by a Staff Working Document).  The Report “confirms that the U.S. continues to ensure an adequate level of protection for personal data transferred under the Privacy Shield” (see also the Commission’s Press Release).  The Report welcomed a number of improvements following the second annual review, including efforts made by U.S. authorities to monitor compliance with the framework, as well as key appointments that have been made in the last year.  The Commission in particular noted the appointment of Keith Krach to the position of Privacy Shield Ombudsperson on a permanent basis, filling a vacancy that had been noted in previous reviews.  The Report also provided a number of recommendations for further improvement and monitoring.

Recognizing that, in its third year, Privacy Shield has “moved from the inception phase to a more operational phase,” the Report placed particular emphasis on the effectiveness of the “tools, mechanisms and procedures in practice.”  Not only has the number of Privacy Shield certifications exceeded 5,000 companies — eclipsing in three years the number of companies that had registered to the Safe Harbor Framework in its nearly 15 years of existence — the Report also noted that “an increasing number of EU data subjects are making use of their rights under the Privacy Shield and that the relevant redress mechanisms function well.”

As with prior reviews, the Commission sought feedback from trade associations, NGOs, and certified companies, and  addressed the functioning of (i) the framework’s commercial aspects, and (ii) U.S. authorities’ access to personal data.


Continue Reading Privacy Shield Third Annual Review

On September 3, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced settlement agreements with five companies for alleged false claims of certification under the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield frameworks (collectively, “Privacy Shield”).  These settlements indicate that the FTC is continuing to actively enforce Privacy Shield commitments, as it has done with respect to several other

On June 20, 2019, Keith Krach was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the Trump administration’s first permanent Privacy Shield Ombudsperson at the State Department.  The role of the Privacy Shield Ombudsperson is to act as an additional redress avenue for all EU data subjects whose data is transferred from the EU or Switzerland

Two sets of regulations aimed at readying UK data protection law for a post-Brexit world have been promulgated in recent weeks.  These regulations, which were made pursuant to the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (EUWA), will only come into force in most respects upon the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  Broadly speaking, these regulations are intended to preserve the status quo post-Brexit by (1) amending certain provisions of the GDPR to allow it to be retained as UK domestic law and (2) transitionally adopting certain key decisions of the EU institutions that, collectively, would allow for the continued lawfulness of personal data flows out of the United Kingdom where currently permitted under EU law.  In both regards, these regulations are consistent with prior guidance from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (discussed here).
Continue Reading UK Issues Regulations on Post-Brexit Data Protection Law

On January 24, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) adopted a report (“Report”) regarding the second annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”).  In a press release accompanying the Report, the EDPB welcomed efforts by EU and U.S. authorities to implement the Privacy Shield,  including in particular the recent appointment of a permanent Ombudsperson.  But the EDPB also noted that certain concerns remain with respect to the implementation of the Privacy Shield.

The EDPB, which is made up of representatives of various European data protection authorities, is established by the GDPR, and advises on the consistent application of data protection rules throughout the EU.  The Report is not binding on the EU or U.S. authorities directly; instead it will serve to guide regulators considering the implementation of the Privacy Shield.  The Report is also likely to influence the EU Commission’s assessment of the Privacy Shield, and to contribute to political pressure in the European Parliament to continue to reform the Shield.    
Continue Reading European Data Protection Board Releases Report on the Privacy Shield

Earlier this week, the European Commission (“Commission”) published its Report on the second annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) (the Report is accompanied by a Staff Working Document).  The Report concludes that the Privacy Shield “continues to ensure an adequate level of protection” for personal data transferred from the EU to the United States.  The Commission also found that the implementation of a number of the recommendations following the first annual review last year improved several aspects of the Privacy Shield, but that certain recommendations still required implementation and/or monitoring.

In another Privacy Shield-related development this week, the International Trade Administration’s Privacy Shield Team announced new guidance on the applicability of the Privacy Shield to the United Kingdom following the UK’s pending withdrawal from the EU. 
Continue Reading Privacy Shield Updates: Second Annual Review and Brexit Guidance

On December 13, 2018, the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) in the United Kingdom issued guidance on the state of UK data protection law should the country leave the European Union (“EU”) without having reached an agreement on the terms of its withdrawal.  Much of this latest guidance is consistent with the ICO’s earlier guidance on the topic, published in September 2018.  But as the UK’s expected withdrawal from the EU on March 29, 2019, inches closer, organizations that process the personal data of individuals resident in the UK or in other countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) should now take steps to prepare themselves for the possibility of a “no-deal” scenario.
Continue Reading Information Commissioner’s Office Issues Guidance on UK Data Protection Law in the Event of a “No-Deal” Brexit