back to article Snowden, Schrems, safe harbor ... it's time to rethink privacy policies, says FTC commish

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill views the landmark decision to kill the US-EU safe harbor agreement as an opportunity to improve privacy laws on both sides of the Atlantic. The safe harbor pact allowed Europeans' personal and private information to flow into American data centers, but that agreement was torn up by the European …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "She pointed out that the decision doesn't dig into the actual practices of Facebook"

    That wasn't actually the ECJ's role. They were asked if national regulators could actually do this given that Safe Harbour was an EC matter. Part of the decision was that they could so it's now been tossed back to the regulator by the Irish High Court. In short it's being done by the people who were supposed to do it.

    Apart from that she seems to have got the message. Whether she's in any position to act on it is a different matter. Maybe the poke at Europe was intended to distract from this.

    "came as a shock to many policy makers and companies in the United States"

    If it did they must have been living in a fools' paradise. What other decision could they have expected? Or didn't they know the case was happening?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      What other decision could they have expected? Or didn't they know the case was happening?

      It's really hard to listen to others when you have your head up your corporate bottom... make that bottom line... either works for me. As long as their profits, bonuses, and the shareholders leave you alone, why worry... right?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "why worry"

        Because if you don't see what's coming, you don't step out of the way & the train runs you down.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        What other decision could they have expected? Or didn't they know the case was happening?

        Given that a lot of the US press reporting on this don't even seem to know what Safe Harbor is, saying that it is disgraceful that the EU have invalidated it and that it will make it harder for Europeans to do business within EU borders as well, it probably did surprise some, but for any sane person, it shouldn't have come as a surprise; I am not sure that anyone outside of Data Protection Officers in companies in Europe have ever even read up about Safe Harbor...

        It certainly surprises US companies when potential European customers question them over their policies. They seem to take it on blind faith that Safe Harbor will protect them from the NSA, the US Justice Department, FISA etc.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Safe harbour is only about commercial protection of data. If it was about protecting your data from the US government then the Eu wouldn't allow data to be processed in the UK where it will be handed over to our 5eyes partners.

          It is about not having your medical records sold to an insurance company, or your banking information sold to advertisers.

    2. Dick Palmer

      "She pointed out that the decision doesn't dig into the actual practices of Facebook... and argues that the loss of safe harbor may mean a loss both in transparency and in the FTC's ability to come down on companies that violate the framework's rules."

      Shirley has! Fur Shir all those prominent cases where the US government's FTC was aggressively prosecuting large US corporations for turning a blind eye while the US government ignored its unbinding assurance not to pry will now wither away...


      US gov trots out yet another disingenuous fucktard to blatantly lie at us. What the hell's wrong with them?

      1. Antonymous Coward

        "US gov trots out yet another disingenuous fucktard to blatantly lie at us."

        ...while pontificating about honesty, no less!

        Mmmm... How I love the smell of hypocrisy disguised as condescension, spewing forth from a politician.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Yeah, Safe Harbor has been known to be a joke in the industry for years. I spoke to one cloud provider in the US back in 2011.

      "What about the Patriot Act?"

      "Oh, we have Safe Harbor."

      "Yes, but the Patriot Act overrides Safe Harbor, so if they turn up with a FISA Court letter, you still have to break European law and hand over the data."

      "But, Safe Harbor!"

      It was shocking that an American company had less of an idea about how their own "laws" worked, let alone the relevant EU laws, where they were doing business, than a European trying to ensure that his company wouldn't be prosecuted in Europe, in the event that the data was moved to the USA and they had to hand it over without an EU warrant...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given that in the US they are pushing through a law allowing companies to feed their Personal Data to government agencies in exchange from immunity from prosecution, I'm not sure why this person thinks that the US and EU are close in terms of their data protection attitudes.

    It seems to me that they're diverging more and more as time goes by.

    She's right about one thing though: in the US, they are becoming more brazen and up-front about the fact that they want everyone's data to look at. In the words of the great Christopher Hitchens, it is "progress of a sort".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By 'improve' she means

    Get Europe to weaken their laws to the same sorry state as those in the US, to keep our corporate masters happy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: By 'improve' she means

      No doubt.

      As everyone knows "the American way" is God's own one true way.

      "Leader of the free world" and all that.

      Doubleplustruth when that "American way" is blatantly self serving US corruption.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: By 'improve' she means

      My first thought was, but the EU is currently tightening up their DP rules... Then I read it again and, yes, I think she means that the EU are going in the wrong direction. Democratic laws don't work in a non-democratic, capitalism driven world.

      Maybe they should implement a few rules for the politicians:

      1. Accepting a bribe is a criminal offense

      2. Attempting to bribe a politician is a criminal offense.

      That would change the whole lobbying system and should put pro- and contra- on a more even footing, poor consumer/citizens' rights groups would have a more equal say than big business. If it just comes down to who has the best argument and not who can buy the best laws.

  4. noj

    you've got to be kidding

    The FTC is powerless to curb information gathering of information by a government that is not only to gather information as it pleases with no transparency or oversight, but now is willing to share that information with any one it pleases. And I'm sorry but enough blame on the NSA - you have to really blame the government that not only put it there and but is willing to let it run wild. FTC intentions may be well placed but reality... well that's another story.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: you've got to be kidding

      And she is advocating that as a virtue. Very interesting considering that this was one of the reasons for the ECJ to invalidate the Safe Harbor.

    2. streaky

      Re: you've got to be kidding

      Well, it'd take several changes to the US constitution and best case that will probably take decades given compliant states and legislators and neither of those things are true.

      It could easily take 50 years before it's legal in the EU to ship private data concerning EU citizens to US companies.

      So yes, the FCC has no power to fix this - and neither does the EU - it's a fundamental question of the Charter guaranteed right to protection of private data that the US and companies in it can't deliver; you'd have an easier time pushing private data to Russia or China. Also it shouldn't have taken Snowden to get movement on this.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love the spin here..

    She also argues that when it comes to how governments view the protection of privacy, the US and Europe are not very far apart: the big difference is in how companies' data practices are handled.

    Bzzzt - wrong. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft would love more legal ability to protect their customers from government sponsored intrusion (hence Microsoft vs DoJ re. the data of a user stored in Ireland), but the laws the US government put in place prevent that. I'm not talking about the likes of Google here who are as far as I can see in direct collusion with US government and associated agencies, nor do I talk about Facebook for whom discussions of privacy are just irritating distractions from their goal of milking your life for data.

    There are a couple of painful facts that everyone involved is very keen to gently skip over - I give it a month before all of it bursts into the open and then there will be really hell to pay on the US side.

    And they knew this was coming.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind, the TPP will undo all of that.

    Apparently TPP will ensure that no country can protect it's citizens by restricting access to or movement of data, even when it is data generated by or about those citizens.

  7. Potemkine Silver badge


    We don't trust you anymore.

    On the same chapter, could European citizen have access of the currently secret talks around TTIP to know exactly how the US (more exactly US Big Business) would like to screw us again?

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