Microsoft Backs Emerging European Privacy Shield Agreement

A Microsoft executive expressed optimism for a new European Union-United States Privacy Shield agreement, which is expected to get announced by the European Commission on July 12, Redmond Magazine reported.

The Privacy Shield agreement is the replacement for the Safe Harbor agreement that previously had served as the legal basis for protecting data transferred between the European Union countries and the United States. The European Court of Justice had scrapped that Safe Harbor framework in October, perhaps because of the massive bulk spying details disclosed by the document leaks of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

John Frank, Microsoft’s vice president for EU government affairs, expressed his personal opinion in a blog post that the emerging EU-U.S. Privacy Shield would address the privacy concerns of EU member countries and individuals:

Safe Harbor fell short of what European data protection rules required, and I believe the Privacy Shield now meets each of those requirements. The Privacy Shield secures Europeans’ right to legal redress, strengthens the role of data protection authorities, introduces an independent oversight body, and it clarifies data collection practices by U.S. security agencies. In addition, it introduces new rules for data retention and onward transfer of data.

Specifically, the Privacy Shield permits individuals and organizations in EU member countries to sue in U.S. courts when privacy laws may have been violated. Their ability to sue was enabled when President Obama signed the Judicial Redress Act in February. Previously, U.S. organizations and individuals could sue in European courts, but not vice versa, which the European Commission saw as a stumbling block toward reform, according to its February draft of the Privacy Shield.