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Privacy and data protection

2016

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova and Commission Vice President announced a new deal, rebranded as the 'EU-US privacy shield', after a cabinet meeting of the EU executive in Strasbourg. The agreement is the result of months of negotiations between the EU and the USA, after the European Court of Justice ruled the Safe Harbour Agreement invalid lat last year. The agreement will allow thousands of businesses to continue to move people's digital data, but a legal fight may await. The agreement was praised by Digital Europe, but privacy groups expressed concern that the deal does not comply with European law on individual privacy rights.

 The European Commission's Vera Jourová, Commissioner in charge of Safe Harbor negotiations gave some highlights about the EC's position on Safe Harbour, referring to the US Judicial Redress Act (JRA) and its amendment. Two key aims were mentioned specifically: 'to ensure that citizens fundamental right to protection of personal data is guaranteed when their data is transferred abroad;' and 'to allow transatlantic data flows – which are important to the economy – to continue with the necessary safeguards'. This is important in light of upcoming talks with the USA on this issue.

As every month, GIP Digital Watch brings you the monthly summary of developments in digital politics, with focus on Geneva, in the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter. You can browse through the latest issue at this link. Special focus is given to techno-realism, Human Rights Court rulings on privacy, encryption and IG predictions for 2016.

At the 8th International Cybersecurity Forum held in Lille, France, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger outlined the cybersecurity policy priorities for the European Commission. Cybersecurity capabilities and cooperation should be enhanced through the recently agreed-upon Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive, which will require setting up national CERTs, with ENISA as secretariat to the network of CERTs, and will introduce security and reporting obligations for companies managing critical infrastructure in sectors such as energy, transport and banking, as well as for key providers of digital services. Having cybersecurity as one of the pillars of Digital Single Market Strategy should encourage globally competitive European-grown cybersecurity industry and strengthen "Europe's digital sovereignty" - relying on European companies in securing EU digital economy; a contractual public private partnership is to be launched in June to stimulate competitiveness and innovation capacities. Another priority would be bringing "security by design" and "privacy by design" as requirements in all the relevant policy areas of EU, including health, transport, finance, energy and ICT. The fourth priority aims at strengthening trust through providing links between security with privacy and data protection, especially through the future General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is allegedly being finalises.

The World Economic Forum has released a report entitled The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online. The report includes a discussion on current technology trends and social media business models. On the topic of ethics, the report argues that standards are slowly emerging, although these ethical standards are highly dependent on regions and locations. To determine ethical frameworks, more should be published on specific ethical tensions. The report furthermore outlines the legal aspects of online content and the important role of court cases in settling legal ambiguity on topics of copyright, licensing, privacy, graphic content and the protection of vulnerable communities. 

A test case in cloud computing is emerging with the dispute between Microsoft and the U.S over whether American prosecutors can gain access to emails stored on servers in Ireland. Microsoft warns that handing over the data could lead to infringements on privacy rights. Microsoft's current president Brad Smith argues that 'the future of the Internet, privacy, respect for borders and public safety' is at stake. The U.S. government points at the challenges posed by cloud computing for law enforcement, as digital evidence abroad is more difficult to access.

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