08 October 2015

The U.S. Government Largely Has Itself to Blame for the EU Court’s Safe Harbor Decision

Originally posted by the Council on Foreign Relations Net Politics Blog on October 8, 2015.

In a decision Tuesday that was as shocking as it was predictable, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) invalidated the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor for westward bound international transfers of personal data. The companies whose information flows to the United States will be impeded by the EU decision need to look to the U.S. government and not just the EU for letting this mess happen.

The case stems from a complaint Max Schrems filed with the Irish Data Protection Authority about the privacy risks of using Facebook. He was concerned that electronic communications transferred to the United States would end up in the hands of the NSA’s PRISM program. PRISM involves the NSA’s use of a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, section 702, that allows it to target non-U.S. persons located outside the United States for foreign intelligence purposes. This section only applies to collections from electronic communication service providers located in the United States.

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