March 26, 2019

US Commerce Department hails at success of EU-US Privacy Shield

On the picture Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

In the wake of the European Commission’s report on the EU-US Privacy Shield program, the US Department of Commerce welcomed the program’s progress and success and pledged to further cooperate with its European counterparts to support transatlantic trade.

On December 19th, the European Commission released its evaluation report of the EU-US Privacy Shield, contributing to the program’s second annual review. Privacy Shield is a framework regulating the compliance with data protection requirements when transferring personal data from Europe to the United States, in support of transatlantic commerce. Since its creation in August 2016, more than 4200 companies, both small and large, and belonging to a wide range of sectors, have made binding commitments to adhere to Privacy Shield’s standards.

James M. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services US Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration.

In the wake of the Commission’s report, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services at the US Commerce Department, Mr. Jim Sullivan, defined Privacy Shield as a success, praising the contributions of different stakeholders, notably the US government and the EU. Both parties have recently been engaged in the review process, which has featured detailed discussions about both commercial aspects and national security-related elements.

The review process involved high-level officials from both the US and the EU side, notably US Secretary of Commerce Mr. Wilbur Ross, European Commissioner for Justice Ms. Věra Jourová, as well as a number of senior officials from different branches of the two administrations. DAS Sullivan noted that the European Commission acknowledged the work done by the US, for instance regarding the implementation of the first annual review’s recommendations, as well as enforcement efforts by the US Federal Trade Commission and several initiatives by the US intelligence community.

Some tension between the US and the EU sides still persists on the nomination of a permanent ombudsman, to be nominated at the level of Under Secretary in the US administration. While recognizing the importance of the issue, DAS Sullivan stressed that the confirmation process will take place as soon as possible, but also underlined that the system is already fully operational under the ad interim leadership of State Department’s Ms. Manisha Singh.

Moreover, while the entering into force of the GDPR regulation prompted an increased amount of requests and thus created a temporary backlog in the recertification process, such backlog has been by now fully addressed – Ms. Catilyn Fennessy, Head of the Privacy Shield team, stressed. Other issues, such as the investigation on Facebook in the wake of the recent scandals on data handling, still remain open. Yet, the Privacy Shield team remains active in fully investigating any potential misbehaviour, and in making sure that all companies subscribing to the Privacy Shield program continue to fulfil their self-certification requirements.

As DAS Sullivan put it, the US is “working very diligently to do what we can to avoid that kind of uncertainty [for businesses] and make sure that the thousands of companies and the hundreds of thousands of employees and the nearly 1.1 trillion dollars in transatlantic trade continue to benefit from Private Shield.”

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