Is Privacy Shield Already A Dead Man Walking?

So Privacy Shield -- a slightly beefed-up version of Safe Harbor -- is approved for a year, but expect some serious objections from the UK's ICO, and other EU privacy watchdogs, if the U.S. authorities are suspected of failure to provide the stronger safeguards it promises.

As The Register reports, the ICO has circulated a letter from the working group which it sat on with other privacy watchdogs. The wording is fairly polite, but pretty clear of the unease with which it and its fellow privacy guardians view the Privacy Shield arrangements. It is not expressly written down because that is not the way these things are done, but the wording hints at the issues the regulators see. Namely, the U.S. authorities might not be completely trustworthy when they make promises of not carrying out mass surveillance of EU citizens' data, that the safeguards against this happening are not very strong and the review process is not robust enough.

In effect, the privacy watchdogs are saying this is better than Safe Harbor, but not by a great deal -- and to be totally frank, there are not "concrete assurances" that EU citizens won't have their data used inappropriately in a way that couldn't happen within the EU. 

All eyes are now of course on the law credited with being a major part of highlighting the inadequacies of the previous Safe Harbor regime and bringing it down. Austrian lawyer Max Schrems has yet to decide whether to launch a legal case against the arrangement and potentially bring it down, although he claims it's only a matter of time before he or someone likeminded does take legal action. 

So we'll have to wait and see what happens there, but even if there is a case raised against Privacy Shield by a campaigner and even if the likes of the ICO believe the agreement isn't working, nothing can be done within the year.

However, there is a strongly worded point from the EU's privacy working group and it is effectively saying they won't allow the deal to be steamrolled through next year when it's up for review -- and, the ICO insists, all involved parties should be given access to all materials and given sufficient time to make "a proper evaluation of the necessity and proportionality of the collection and access to data transferred by public authorities".

In official speak, the deal has just been called out and the authorities have been warned it won't be so easy next time. For that reason and the potential of legal action, the current version of Privacy Shield could be at least seen as a very injured man limping along if not a proverbial "dead man walking."

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