The European Commission's decision to approve the State of Israel's status as a country ensuring an "adequate level of protection" under the European Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 1 February 2011 (OJ L 27, 1.2.2011, p. 39) and is in force as of now.

Exclusive circle of safe countries grows

The Commission's approval grants Israel access to an exclusive circle of currently only eight countries or territories which have been recognised to provide a level of data protection that is deemed adequate to the European data protection regime (Andorra, Argentina, Canada, Switzerland, the Faeroe Islands, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey). In order to lawfully transfer personal data from EU Member States to countries not belonging to this circle, exporters and importers of personal data are required to take specific measures to provide safeguards for the protection of the transferred data. These measures typically include entering into Standard Contractual Clauses issued by the European Commission or – if data are to be shared within a group of companies - implementing Binding Corporate Rules. US based entities may also receive data without such additional measures, if they participate in the US Safe Harbor program initiated by the US Government and the European Union.

Legal requirements for data transfers significantly lowered

From now on, none of these measures is required to lawfully transfer personal data from the 27 EU Member States and three member countries of the European Economic Area (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) to recipients located in Israel. The decision applies to all categories of personal data and to all automated means of transfer or processing.

This provides a substantial relief for international groups of companies seeking to share data with Israeli headquarters or affiliates. Also data processing service providers in Israel and their customers will benefit greatly from the decreased bureaucratic hurdles brought forward by the Commission's decision.

The last country that was recognised by the European Commission to provide adequate protection was Andorra, which was formally approved in October 2010 (OJ 277, 21.10.2010, p. 27). The next country expected to be recognised by the European Commission is Uruguay.