The US Department of Commerce has taken down part of its official website amid fears that sensitive data from companies including Microsoft, Intel and HP has been compromised.
The ironically named Safe Harbour website had two key features removed for "security review".
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey admitted: "Our government has serious security problems that put privacy at risk."
The site in question was designed to implement the Safe Harbour Agreement, which allows the uninterrupted flow of personal information from Europe to the US.
The Safe Harbour site, which details information including revenue, the number of employees and the European countries with which a firm does business, has reportedly been publicly accessible since it went online last year.
According to the Department of Commerce website, 68 US companies, including Hewlett Packard, Intel and Microsoft, have joined the Safe Harbour to date.
The European Commission issued the Directive on Data Protection to protect the privacy of EU citizens. The directive states that for those countries outside the EU with privacy practices not deemed "adequate", transfer of personal information from Europe to those countries would be stopped.
Companies that sign up to the safe harbour commit to notifying people about the purpose of collecting information about them and offer the choice of barring disclosure of personal information to third parties.
Transfer of data without someone's consent is not allowed.
The privacy statement posted at the Commerce Department website says: "We will not share any personally identifying information you give us with any other government agency, private organization or the public, except with your consent or as required by law."
However, a posting at the website, www.export.gov/safeharbor, said the self-certification form and the safe harbour list were the two under examination.
"We regret any inconvenience this may cause for firms visiting the safe harbor web site. We anticipate that this matter will be resolved shortly."
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