UK tech industry reacts to new ‘Safe Harbour’ deal


The UK tech industry has reacted to the European Commission’s and United States’ new ‘Safe Harbour’ agreement.

Approved by the College of Commissioners, the EU-US Privacy Shield will seek to protect the fundamental rights of Europeans where their data is transferred to the United States as well as trying to establish legal certainty for business.

The new agreement reflects the requirements established by the European Court of Justice in its 6th October ruling, which rendered the old Safe Harbour framework invalid.

Industry reactions

Mike Weston, the CEO of London-based data science consultancy Profusion, said: “The new EU-US Privacy Shield agreement is very welcome, however, I doubt it will be anything more than a stop-gap measure. It is also unlikely to quell disquiet in the tech community by restoring long term confidence in the trans-Atlantic flow of data.”

The main problem, Weston argued, is that the US and the EU have fundamentally different approaches to data protection.

Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK also commented on the news.

“Today’s announcement of a new deal for EU–US data transfers is extremely important,” he said, adding “The European Commission and US Administration must now show total commitment to implementing this agreement and getting trans-Atlantic data flows back onto a secure and stable legal footing.

The fact that EU and US negotiators have worked day and night for several months to secure this agreement reflects how important transatlantic data flows are to the global digital economy,” added Walker.

A legal perspective

Phil Lee, data protection partner at European law firm Fieldfisher, also commented on the news.

“Today’s announcement will undoubtedly be welcomed by many. But keeping in mind that this new Safe Harbour will almost certainly be challenged by civil liberties groups (and possibly even some data protection authorities) pretty much immediately, only the foolhardy would want to place their trust in a new Safe Harbour right now, ” said Lee, adding “Whether legal or not, its reputation is already shot to pieces”.

The agreement is expected to enforce stronger monitoring by the US Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), through increased cooperation with European Data Protection Authorities.