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European Privacy Regulators Want More Details on U.S. ‘Safe Harbor’ Data Deal

Europe’s national privacy watchdogs on Wednesday demanded that the European Commission provide more details about a new agreement with the United States on moving people’s digital data — including online search queries, financial information and employee records — across the Atlantic.

The privacy regulators set a deadline of the end of the month for their questions to be answered. That demand came a day after the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, reached its data transfer deal with the United States. The privacy officials, from the European Union’s member nations, said negotiators still needed to explain how the new pact would safeguard Europe’s stringent privacy rules.

The privacy agencies on Wednesday welcomed the fact that some progress had been made. But they warned that they still had doubts over how American intelligence agencies would access European citizens’ data when transferred to the United States under the newly forged agreement.

The data protection authorities also called on the commission to give more details on what steps Europeans could take to protect their privacy, but said companies could continue to transfer data until the end of February, at least.

That deadline, though, will likely increase uncertainty about the billions of dollars of annual trade for companies moving data across the Atlantic because the European national regulators may still rule that the new pact does not provide sufficient protection.

“We want to receive the documents to assess whether the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield can answer our concerns,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, France’s privacy chief who is chairwoman of the so-called Article 29 Working Party, a pan-regional body of European data protection authorities. “We’re ready to analyze the results of the negotiations.”

She added that European privacy agencies would likely receive specifics on the new deal within three weeks, and they would then review whether the arrangement upheld European privacy guarantees when data are moved to the United States.

All the talk about data privacy can get caught up in political wrangling. But the different approaches have practical consequences for people, too.

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NYT > Technology

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