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The EU-US Data Privacy Framework (the “Framework”) sets forth a set of principles and requirements that US organizations can comply with and, following certification, be permitted to join the Framework. On October 12, the UK extension to the Framework will come into effect following the UK digital minister’s submission of regulation and the US Attorney General’s designation of the UK as a “qualifying state.”
This data bridge and the associated framework ensures that the level of protection for UK individual’s personal data, as provided for under UK GDPR, is maintained. The FTC and U.S. Department of Transportation are the independent supervisory authorities for the UK extension, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
On July 18, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) published an information note to provide clarity on data transfers under the GDPR to the United States following the European Commission’s adoption of the adequacy decision as part of the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework on July 10. The information note also addresses available redress mechanisms under the framework, as well as a new redress mechanism relating to the area of national security. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the European Commission concluded that the U.S. “ensures an adequate level of protection – comparable to that of the European Union – for personal data transferred from the EU to U.S. companies under the new framework.” With the adoption of the new adequacy decision, personal data can now be transferred securely from the EU to U.S. companies participating in the framework without having to implement additional data protection safeguards.
The information note clarified that transfers based on adequacy decisions do not require supplementary measures. However, transfers to the U.S. not included in the “Data Privacy Framework List” will require appropriate safeguards, such as standard data protection clauses or binding corporate rules. The EDPB emphasized that U.S. government safeguards put in place in the area of national security (including the redress mechanism) will “apply to all data transfers to the [U.S.], regardless of the transfer tool used.” Additionally, EU individuals whose data is transferred to the U.S. based on the adequacy decision may use several redress mechanisms, including submitting complaints with the relevant U.S. organization, while EU organizations may seek advice from their national data protection authority to oversee related processing activities. Moreover, regardless of the transfer method used for sending personal data to the U.S., EU data subjects can submit complaints to their national data protection authority to utilize the new redress mechanism concerning national security. The national data protection authority, in turn, will ensure that the complaint is sent to the EDPB, which will transmit the complaint to the appropriate U.S. authorities.
The EDPB noted that the European Commission will conduct a review of the adequacy decision one year after it enters into force to ensure all elements have been fully implemented and are effective. Depending on the findings, the European Commission will decide, in consultation with the EDPB and the EU member states, whether subsequent reviews are warranted.
On July 10, the European Commission adopted an adequacy decision as part of the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework, concluding that the U.S. “ensures an adequate level of protection – comparable to that of the European Union – for personal data transferred from the EU to U.S. companies under the new framework.” In the announcement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the “new EU-US Data Privacy Framework will ensure safe data flows for Europeans and bring legal certainty to companies on both sides of the Atlantic.” She explained that with the new adequacy decision, personal data can now be transferred securely from the EU to U.S. companies participating in the framework without having to implement additional data protection safeguards. The framework will be administered by the Department of Commerce. Compliance by U.S. companies with their obligations under the framework will be enforced by the FTC.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, Presidents von der Leyen and Biden announced in March 2022 that they had reached an agreement in principle on a new transatlantic data flows framework to foster cross-border transfers of personal data from the EU to the U.S. Under the framework, the U.S. agreed to implement reforms and safeguards to “strengthen the privacy and civil liberties protections applicable to U.S. signals intelligence activities.” The announcement followed negotiations that began after the Court of Justice of the EU issued an opinion in the Schrems II case in July 2020, holding that the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield did not satisfy EU legal requirements.
The DOJ released a statement welcoming the European Commission’s adoption of the adequacy decision and expressing its eagerness to collaborate with the Commission, along with representatives from European data protection authorities, to ensure the ongoing implementation of data privacy safeguards.
On June 8, President Biden presented an agreement in principle to allow for the free flow of data between the U.S. and the UK. Announced as part of the administration’s “Atlantic Declaration for a Twenty-First Century U.S.-UK Economic Partnership,” the “data bridge” would facilitate data flows between the two countries while ensuring strong, effective privacy protections. “The trusted and secure flow of data across our borders is foundational to efforts to further innovation,” the White House said in the announcement. “We are working to finalize our respective assessments swiftly to implement this framework.” A joint statement issued by the UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, the Rt. Hon. Chloe Smith MP, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo reiterated the two countries’ commitment to establishing “a data bridge that would restore a robust and reliable mechanism for UK-US data flows.” The data bridge would also help facilitate data transfers to U.S. organizations that rely on other data transfer mechanisms under UK law, the joint statement said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and the EU are working to finalize the EU-US Data Privacy Framework (covered by InfoBytes here)—a replacement for the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which was annulled by the Court of Justice of the EU in 2020 after the court determined that data transferred under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield would not be subject to the same level of protections prescribed by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
On February 14, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs released a draft motion for a resolution concerning the adequacy of protections afforded under the EU-US Data Privacy Framework. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last October President Biden signed an Executive Order on Enhancing Safeguards for United States Signals Intelligence Activities (E.O.) to address the facilitation of transatlantic data flows between the EU and the U.S. The E.O. also outlined bolstered commitments that the U.S. will take under the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework (a replacement for the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield). In 2020, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) annulled the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield after determining that, because the requirements of U.S. national security, public interest, and law enforcement have “primacy” over the data protection principles of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, data transferred under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield would not be subject to the same level of protections prescribed by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In the draft resolution, the Committee urged the European Commission not to adopt any new adequacy decisions needed for the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework to officially take effect. According to the Committee, the framework “fails to create actual equivalence in the level of protection” provided to EU residents’ transferred data. Among other things, the Committee found that the government surveillance backstops outlined in the E.O. “are not in line” with “long-standing key elements of the EU data protection regime as related to principles of proportionality and necessity.” The Committee also expressed concerns that “these principles will be interpreted solely in light of [U.S.] law and legal traditions” and appear to take a “broad interpretation” to proportionality. The Committee also flagged concerns that the framework does not establish an obligation to notify EU residents that their personal data has been processed, “thereby undermining their right to access or rectify their data.” Additionally, “the proposed redress process does not provide for an avenue for appeal in a federal court,” thereby removing the possibility for EU residents to claim damages. Moreover, “remedies available for commercial matters” are “largely left to the discretion of companies, which can select alternative remedy avenues such as dispute resolution mechanisms or the use of companies’ privacy [programs],” the Committee said.
The Committee called on the Commission “to continue negotiations with its [U.S.] counterparts with the aim of creating a mechanism that would ensure such equivalence and which would provide the adequate level of protection required by Union data protection law and the Charter as interpreted by the CJEU,” and urged the Commission “not to adopt the adequacy finding.”
On October 7, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Enhancing Safeguards for United States Signals Intelligence Activities (E.O.) to address the facilitation of transatlantic data flows between the EU and the U.S. The E.O. outlines commitments the U.S. will take under the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework, which was announced in March as a replacement for the invalidated EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) issued an opinion in the Schrems II case (Case C-311/18) in July 2020, holding that the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield did not satisfy EU legal requirements. In annulling the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, the CJEU determined that because the requirements of U.S. national security, public interest, and law enforcement have “primacy” over the data protection principles of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, the data transferred under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield would not be subject to the same level of protections prescribed by the GDPR.
Among other things, the E.O. bolsters privacy and civil liberty safeguards for U.S. signals intelligence-gathering activities, and establishes an “independent and binding mechanism” to enable “qualifying states and regional economic integration organizations, as designated under the E.O., to seek redress if they believe their personal data was collected through U.S. signals intelligence in a manner that violated applicable U.S. law.” Specifically, the E.O. (i) creates further safeguards for how the U.S. signals intelligence community conducts data transfers; (ii) establishes requirements for handling personal information collected through signals intelligence activities and “extends the responsibilities of legal, oversight, and compliance officials to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to remediate incidents of non-compliance”; (iii) requires the U.S. signals intelligence community to make sure policies and procedures reflect the E.O.’s new privacy and civil liberty safeguards; (iv) establishes a multi-layer review and redress mechanism, under which the Civil Liberties Protection Officer in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (CLPO) is granted the authority to investigate complaints of improper collection and handling of personal data and may issue binding decisions on whether improper conduct occurred and what the appropriate remediation should be; (v) directs the U.S. attorney general to establish a Data Protection Review Court (DPRC) to independently review CLPO decisions, thereby serving as the second level of the E.O.’s redress mechanism (see DOJ announcement here); and (vi) calls on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review U.S. signals intelligence community policies and procedures to ensure they are consistent with the E.O.