US commits to privacy and civil liberty safeguards concerning EU-US data transfers

Matthew N. Henry

The commitment from the US aims to provide US and EU companies with the legal certainty they need to transfer, analyse and use cross-border data.

The president of the US, Joe Biden, has today (7 October) signed an executive order detailing the steps that the US will take to implement its commitments under the EU-US Data Privacy Framework (DPF).

The DPF was announced by Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in March of this year. It is a joint effort by the EU and the US to balance both bodies’ reliance on cross-border and transatlantic data flows for economic purposes with citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

The DPF will restore a legal basis for transatlantic data flows by addressing concerns that the Court of Justice of the EU raised in striking down the prior EU-US Privacy Shield framework as a valid data transfer mechanism under EU law.

The executive order that was signed today by Biden will add further safeguards for US signals intelligence activities so that they comply with civil liberties and privacy rules.

It will also create an independent and binding set of rules enabling individuals in certain states and regional economic integration organisations to seek redress if they believe their personal data was collected through US signals intelligence in a manner that violated US law. An oversight board will be tasked with carrying out an annual review of the redress process.

The order stipulates that the gathering of transatlantic data be conducted only in pursuit of defined national security objectives. They must also be conducted only when necessary to advance an intelligence priority in a reasonable manner.

It also requires that intelligence bodies take into consideration the privacy and civil liberties of all people, regardless of nationality or country of residence.

There will be mandated handling requirements for personal information collected through signals intelligence activities. Furthermore, the order requires that the US intelligence community overhaul their policies to reflect the new privacy and civil liberties safeguards outlined.

The US Chamber executive VP and head of international affairs, Myron Brilliant, welcomed Biden’s move.

“Today’s executive order implementing the EU-US Data Privacy Framework represents an important commitment to ensure stability, predictability, and accountability to data flows and the transatlantic relationship. These actions are critical to providing companies of all sizes the legal certainty they need to transfer, analyse and utilise data on both sides of the Atlantic.”

“Given the depth and breadth of the transatlantic economic partnership—and the volume of trade and investment facilitated by data transfers—this new framework between the US and EU is vitally important,” Brilliant added.

Brilliant concluded by saying that it was now time for the EU to ensure the DPF was finalised and implemented as quickly as possible.

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