EU lawmakers see 'deficiencies' in US data deal

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EU lawmakers see 'deficiencies' in US data deal

Brussels (AFP) – The European Parliament called Thursday on Brussels to pursue talks with Washington to remove “deficiencies” from a deal to curb government spying on the personal Internet data of EU citizens.

Brussels and Washington announced the new “Privacy Shield” deal in February, replacing a previous agreement that was thrown out by the European Court of Justice last year, but has generated mixed reviews since.

Top US companies including Facebook and Google in particular are eager to end the legal void as they transfer data from their European subsidiaries to their headquarters in the United States.

In a non-binding resolution, 501 members of the European Parliament voted for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to continue negotiating with the United States to remedy “deficiencies” in the agreement.

Another 119 MEPs voted against it, with 31 abstaining.

The resolution cited “deficiencies” in terms of protection from US government access to data transferred under the deal, as well as in bulk data collection, with concerns it may not meet EU standards of “necessity” and “proportionality.”

MEPs said a proposed US ombudsman to deal with complaints by European citizens would neither be “sufficiently independent” nor have enough powers to act.

They also said Brussels and Washington need to make the mechanism to redress problems more “user-friendly and effective.”

Austrian Internet activist Max Schrems — who brought a case against Facebook in Ireland that led to the EU court judgment last year — said the new deal amounts to putting “10 layers of lipstick on a pig.” 

He said that the deal includes too many areas under which “bulk” data collection is allowed.

The old Safe Harbor agreement effectively meant that Europe treated the United States as a safe destination for Internet data on the basis that Brussels and Washington adhered to similar standards.

But the EU court declared Safe Harbor “invalid” in October because of US snooping practices exposed by Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked a hoard of National Security Agency documents.

Brussels and Washington announced the new “Privacy Shield” deal, replacing a previous agreement that was thrown out by the European Court of Justice last year, but has generated mixed reviews since
Copyright Getty/AFP/File Win McNamee

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