Snowden shrapnel stirs strife in US, EU Safe Harbour system

Written by on September 29, 2015 in News with 0 Comments
REUTERS/Yves Herman

REUTERS/Yves Herman

(Reuters) – The United States criticized an EU judicial opinion on Monday that called into question the Safe Harbour transatlantic data privacy system and Washington urged European judges to reach a different conclusion.

The U.S. mission to the European Union said an opinion last week [ID:nL5N11T11L] by an adviser to the EU’s top court, backing an Austrian who alleged Facebook passed private data to U.S. security services, “rests on numerous inaccurate assertions about intelligence practices of the United States”.

The original case, brought in Ireland where Facebook and many U.S. tech firms have European headquarters, was partly based on revelations in 2013 by contractor Edward Snowden about U.S. intelligence agencies’ spying on global communications.

In a statement, the U.S. mission said it was concerned about damage to trade and privacy in Europe and the United States and so urged the Court of Justice, which usually follows its advocate general’s advice, to reach different conclusions when it finally rules on the case.

In a trenchant opinion that fueled American concern about European hostility following a series of antitrust investigations and difficulties in trade negotiations, court adviser Yves Bot said the 15-year-old Safe Harbour agreement did not do enough to protect EU citizens’ private information when it reached the United States and should have been suspended.

But the U.S. mission said: “The United States does not and has not engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of anyone, including ordinary European citizens.”

It added that Bot, who concluded Ireland’s data protection agency was wrong to dismiss Schrems’s complaint on the grounds that the EU said U.S. privacy rules were adequate, did not take account of changes in U.S. policies and efforts by Washington and Brussels to strengthen protections under Safe Harbour.

“We hope that the final judgment of the European Court of Justice takes note of these efforts, inaccuracies in and far-reaching consequences of the Advocate General’s opinion, as well as the significant harm to the protection of individual rights and the free flow of information that would occur if it were to follow the Advocate General’s opinion,” the U.S. mission said.

By Alastair Macdonald

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