On February 2, 2016, a new EU-U.S. transatlantic data transfer agreement was reached. Vera Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, presented the new agreement to the European Commission (the “Commission”) today. According to the Commission’s press release, the new agreement will be called the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

According to Commissioner Jourová, “[t]he new EU-US Privacy Shield will protect the fundamental rights of Europeans when their personal data is transferred to U.S. companies. For the first time ever, the United States has given the EU binding assurances that the access of public authorities for national security purposes will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms. Also for the first time, EU citizens will benefit from redress mechanisms in this area. In the context of the negotiations for this agreement, the U.S. has assured that it does not conduct mass or indiscriminate surveillance of Europeans. We have established an annual joint review in order to closely monitor the implementation of these commitments.”

As we previously reported on February 1, Jourová told the European Parliament that a new agreement had not yet been reached. Jourová indicated that an agreement was close, but additional work was needed to finalize it.

The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield comes in the wake of the Article 29 Working Party announcement in October 2015 that if no agreement was reached by the end of January 2016, the individual national data protection authorities may decide to take coordinated enforcement actions against companies that continue to rely on the invalidated Safe Harbor agreement to transfer data.

Next Steps

According to the Commission’s press release, the College of Commissioners (the “College”) has mandated that Vice President Ansip and Commissioner Jourová prepare a draft “adequacy decision” in the coming weeks, which could then be adopted by the College after obtaining the advice of the Article 29 Working Party and after consulting a committee composed of representatives of the EU Member States. The U.S. will also need to make the necessary preparations to put in place the new framework.