Safe Harbour ruled invalid by top European court (Wired UK)


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An agreement that allowed major technology companies to send personal data from the EU to the US has been ruled invalid.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the Safe Harbour agreement, which has existed for 15 years, did not remove a need for local privacy authorities to ensure US firms were adequately protecting user data.

The ruling is likely to have a major impact on how the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter operate.

The ruling is the result of a legal challenge bought by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems, who has argued that the agreement allowed social networks and others to share the personal data of European’s with the likes of the NSA. Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed how Safe Harbour could be used by overseas intelligence agencies to access data on EU citizens.

“I very much welcome the judgement of the Court, which will hopefully be a milestone when it comes to online privacy. This judgement draws a clear line. It clarifies that mass surveillance violates our fundamental rights,” said Schrems in an initial response to the ruling.

“This decision is a major blow for US global surveillance that erlies heavily on private partners. The judgement makes it clear that US businesses cannot simply aid US espionage efforts in violation of European fundamental rights,” he continued.

Schrems, a 28-year-old Austrian law student, has been fighting the legal battle since 2010 when he demanded Facebook send his all the user data it had stored about him. It sent 1,200 pages.

The implications of the Safe Harbour judgement are vast for international companies and US surveillance operations. From today, companies cannot outsource EU data processing to the US. Average users should now be able to use US sites like Google, Facebook and Yahoo without fear of being mass surveilled by the like of the NSA. Despite this, users are unlikely to see restrictions in their daily use. 

According to Schrems’ campaign, “Europe vs Facebook”, US companies that participated in mass surveillance — “Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo” — may, as a result of the ruling, face “serious legal consequences” from data protection authorities in the EU.

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6 October 2015 | 9:03 am – Source: wired.co.uk

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