U.S. Data Talks Must Get Results by End-May, EU’s Jourova Says

The European Union’s justice chief said the bloc is pressing the U.S. for results by the end of next month in talks to revamp a pact on trans-Atlantic transfers of personal information by companies.

The EU wants the U.S. to agree on permanent and regular controls of companies certified under the so-called Safe-Harbor Program, Vera Jourova, the EU’s commissioner for justice, said in Berlin today. The negotiations must also come up with liability rules for when data is transferred to third parties and curbs on state access to the information, she said.

“We want a clear agreement on a limited and clearly defined number of exceptions for law enforcement and security agencies’ access the data” and “on rules of proportionality of their data use,” said Jourova. “This must be guaranteed in writing by the U.S. side.”

The safe-harbor framework was put in place by the EU in 2000 after negotiations with the U.S. Department of Commerce to allow data transfers to companies certified to adhere to privacy principles. The pact has come under scrutiny in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelation of U.S. surveillance practices.

The EU parliament last year asked the European Commission to suspend the process and German regulators are also reviewing the practice.

The EU is seeking to resolve key issues with the U.S. side by May 28, when justice and interiors ministers from both sides meet in Riga, she said.

The EU also aims for “more intense and more frequent” controls by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to better protect consumer data protection rights in the process, the commissioner said. The May 28 deadline was agreed upon in December, Jourova said.

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