On November 3, 2015, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittees on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and Communications and Technology held a joint hearing entitled "Examining the EU Safe Harbor Decision and Impacts for Transatlantic Data Flows." On the same day, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet convened a hearing entitled "International Data Flows: Promoting Digital Trade In the 21" Century," which addressed similar issues.
During the Energy and Commerce joint Subcommittee hearing, Members and panelists discussed the importance of cross border data flows; the close trade relationship between the United States and the EU; the EU court ruling on Maximillian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner ("Schrems") that invalidated the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Agreement; and the renegotiation of the Safe Harbor Agreement. In her opening statement, Subcommittee Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D ILl discussed her plans to introduce legislation regulating security standards for personal data, including geolocation, health, and biometric data, as well as email and social media account information. Subcommittee Chairman Walden (R-OR) and other Members focused on the ongoing Safe Harbor 2.0 negotiations in their questioning. Panelists commented that it is critical to reach an agreement before the January 31, 2016 deadline when EU data protection authorities will begin enforcing the Schrems decision, and suggested that the Department of Commerce's and the Federal Trade Commission's lack of authority over U.S. government surveillance may mean that Safe Harbor 2.0 will face future legal challenges in the EU.
In the Judiciary Committee hearing, Members emphasized the importance of the Safe Harbor agreement, and discussed potential legislative and policy solutions to the EU court's Safe Habor invalidation. Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) highlighted the passage of the "Judicial Redress Act," noting that it was an important step in addressing Europeans' concerns regarding U.S. government surveillance. Subcommittee Chairman Darrelllssa (R-CA) and Subcommittee Vice Chairman Doug Collins (R-GA) discussed elements of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the panel, including implications for banks and proposals that prevent countries from requiring companies to share source code or localize data centers.