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European Court ruling invalidates Safe Harbour agreement

The personal data of Europeans held in America by online tech corporations is not safe from US government snooping, the European court of justice has recently ruled. The Luxembourg-based court declared the EU-US “safe harbour” rules regulating firms’ retention of Europeans’ data in the US to be invalid. Safe Harbour is an agreement between the European Union and the US that provides guidance for US firms on how to protect the personal data of EU citizens as required by the EU’s directive on data protection.

The European Commission (EC) and the US are under pressure to come up with a new replacement system for the now invalidated agreement. A statement from EU advisory body The Article 29 Working Party on the Protection of Individuals, has given those affected by the ruling three months to devise a new system. The commission has been attempting to renegotiate the rules with the Americans since late 2013, following the Edward Snowden revelations on the complicity between US hi-tech companies and government surveillance, so this target seems very ambitious.

The ruling will force the companies involved (including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and many others) to rethink their operations and to relocate some of their operations, and also creates great legal uncertainty among the 4,400 European companies that use the safe harbour rules to transfer customers’ data to the US.

If your company uses any form of online or cloud services do you know if the provider routinely transfers data to the US? If so this data is now most likely regarded as ’not safe’ under EU data protection legislation. Considering how unlikely it is that the relevant parties will come up with a new agreement within the required timescale, should you be considering moving to a provider who is governed by European data legislation, who will only store your data within the EU or preferably within the UK?

HDUK’s infrastructure is all located in UK based data centres which are owned and operated by a UK registered business. We can assure all of our customers that their data ALWAYS remains in the UK and is subject to both UK and EU data protection laws.

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