Transatlantic Data Flow Deal Reached

Small businesses and developers around the world are starting to breathe a little easier today. After working diligently over the last few months, EU and U.S. negotiators announced a new agreement on transatlantic data flows. Dubbed “Privacy Shield,” the agreement will ensure innovators can continue to create and improve life-changing products that benefit consumers in both the EU and U.S. While the agreement must still be ok’d by various EU bodies, the news of an initial agreement is an important development nonetheless.

The original agreement, commonly referred to as Safe Harbor, was forged more than a decade ago and invalidated in October by the EU’s highest court. The agreement enabled thousands of companies on both sides of the Atlantic to collect, transfer, and store data with relative ease. Safe Harbor effectively meant companies only had to comply with one set of EU data privacy regulations, instead of different regulations in each of the EU’s 28 member-states. Absent a new agreement, there were serious concerns regarding the number of privacy hurdles companies would have to navigate, not to mention the legality of these practices.

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Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic should be applauded for their hard work to get a new agreement in place. Deliberations were delicate, but the delegates’ efforts to bridge differences and create a framework that can withstand scrutiny and preserve the borderless Internet where data and ideas can travel with ease is remarkable. In today’s global marketplace, the free flow of data is the lifeblood of innovation. Whether in France, Belgium, or the United States, bright minds are finding ways to share and use data to change nearly every facet of our lives for the better.

Last week, Robi Ganguly, CEO and co-founder of Apptentive, an Alliance member based in Seattle, penned a thoughtful opinion piece that detailed what a post-Safe Harbor marketplace would mean for his company. In short, without a new agreement, Apptentive --and thousands of other small- and medium-sized enterprises like it --would lack a reliable roadmap to allow them to conduct business in the EU. Large companies with the resources to hire teams of compliance experts, or build new private server farms, would probably find a way to navigate the new landscape. Smaller players like Apptentive however, would be unable to spend the time or money to comply with the myriad of new regulations.

There is still work left to do, as Member States’ Data Protection Authorities must approve the new deal, after which the European Commission will  formally adopt a new Adequacy Decision, but today’s news is a substantial step in the right direction. The hard work and leadership exhibited by negotiators may go unheralded in some corners, but the reality remains: their efforts will touch the lives of millions of innovators like Apptentive, not to mention the consumers who will reap the benefits. On behalf of developers, we hope this agreement can usher in a new age of international cooperation and commerce.


 Geoff Lane

U.S. Director of Policy and Government Relations