POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Safe Harbour

Safe Harbour is the name of the EU Commission's decision which allows companies to transfer personal data in accord with the EU Data Protection Directive  in the USA.

Basically, such data transfer from EU countries to third-party countries is prohibited under provisions of Articles 25 and 26 of the European Data Protection Directive, in case that the third-party country operates under no data protection policy to that of the EU. This is the case with the USA. In order not to disrupt transfer data between USA and the member states of the European Union, the so called "Safe Harbour" arrangement was made. It allows the personal data to be transfered in the USA, when the respective companies with seats in the USA make sure that the Safe Harbour principles are satisfied and they are listed in the US Department of Commerce. 

The new EU-US-Privacy-Shield

The decision of the European  Court of Justice from 6. October 2015 declared the Safe Harbour-Harbour Decision invalid. The decision grounds stated that the companies whihch have been subject to the Safe Harbour principles, could issue data to US security authoritites without restrictions. Therefore, Safe Harbour did not fulfill its originally intended purpose.

On 2. February 2016 the European Union declared that it has agreed on a new framework for transatlantic data flows with the USA. This successor of Safe Harbour will ba named "EU-US-Privacy Shield".  The new aspect of this agreement is that the respective companies will be monitored by the US Department of Commerce in the future. In case of misuse, there will be a penalty and deletion from the list. Moreover, the establishment of  ombudsman is planned, who will act as a contact person, in case you feel your data protection rights have been violated. The ombudsman should be able to work independently from the US security authoritities. Detailed information and written statemements on EU-US-Privacy-Shield were not yet available at the time this glossary entry was made.

See also: Data Protection, Data Security, Backups, Digital Single Market

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