facebook, reuters
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Advocate General Yves Bot of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Wednesday argued the safe harbor agreement doesn’t meet the requirements of the EU’s Data Protection Directive and should be shut down. The safe harbor agreement is supposed to ensure data transfers from the EU to the US are legal under European data privacy laws,

Bot said the “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies renders invalid the safe harbor agreement that makes it easier for U.S. companies to comply with EU data laws.

He recommended the ECJ should invalidate the 15 year-old data transfer agreement between the EU and the U.S. His opinion has become a source of serious concern for U.S. tech firms.

Tech giants fret that the ECJ might shut down one of the main channels they use to transfer personal data across the Atlantic. While Bot’s opinion is nonbinding, it might deal a potentially heavy blow to tech companies that wouldn’t want to violate the EU privacy laws by sending personal data to servers in the U.S., said The Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, Google, Facebook and Amazon might be forced to build their own European databases should the safe harbor agreement be declared invalid by the ECJ, reported Forbes.

The safe harbor framework hinges on an agreement reached between the EU and the U.S. designed to manage the transfer of commercial data between involved parties. Bot said national data protection regulators have the authority to suspend transfers of personal data to the US to protect the privacy rights of EU citizens.

The safe harbor mechanism is mostly used by 4,500 companies to transfer commercial information such as customer data. But it’s also the main channel used by Facebook to transfer the personal data of its users.

Privacy advocates that claim their rights have been violated on the biggest social media platform has urged the ECJ to scrap the safe harbor pact.

Two more giant American tech firms that use the data transfer channel are Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Inc.

EU Privacy and Protection of Personal Data: U.S.- EU Safe Harbor (Credit: YouTube/EDiscoveryMap)

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