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March 23, 2016
Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee held a hearing on the new Privacy Shield arrangement with experts on Thursday 17 March. Representatives from both the Commission and the US government stressed that the new system would provide more privacy guarantees to Europeans by limiting government access to their data and allowing them to defend their rights in US courts.
Several MEPs pointed out that the new arrangement was better than the previous Safe Harbour. German EPP member Axel Voss said: “Privacy Shield is not Safe Harbour because it guarantees effective protection of EU individuals’ privacy rights”, adding that the new deal would meet the concerns of the Court of Justice of the European Union because it contains clear limits on US government access to data.
German S&D member, Birgit Sippel, said: “I clearly see some improvements compared with Safe Harbour”. However, she expressed concerns about the possibility of bulk data collection.
Other MEPs and privacy activists participating in the hearing criticised the new Privacy Shield, with some querying whether the new arrangement would provide sufficient safeguards against mass surveillance.
Max Schrems, whose case against Facebook led to the downfall of the Safe Harbour, told MEPs: “We need a system that provides real protection and not just some wording that doesn’t work in practice”.
Before the deal can enter into force, the Commission needs to declare that the Privacy Shield offers a sufficient level of data protection. In addition, Parliament’s consent will be needed for the umbrella agreement dealing with privacy guarantees for data transfers in the area of law enforcement. It will complement existing agreements with the US that allow access to airline passenger information and bank transactions. For further information on the debate, click here.