Companies will be able to provide a legal basis for transfers of business data outside Europe as from 1 April after the European Commission's approval of standard contractual clauses for digital data transfers.
The EC accepted that the proposals put forward by seven international business associations, including the UK's Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), to offer an "adequate level of data protection" under its data protection laws.
Approval of the clauses comes after four years of negotiation. It marks the first time that the EC has officially approved a mechanism for data transfers proposed by the private sector, and gives international business an additional tool to transfer personal data outside Europe.
Christopher Kuner, chairman of the ICC Task Force on Privacy and the Protection of Personal Data, who led the negotiations with the EC, said that the clauses provide a number of advantages for companies.
"Our clauses offer the same level of data protection as the EC's," he said. "But they use more flexible mechanisms that are more in line with business realities."
For instance, the clauses do not require the data exporter and importer to be liable for each other's misuse of the data, as the EC's previous clauses had done, and contain auditing provisions that are more flexible and realistic, according to Kuner.
The business associations supporting the clauses are the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union in Brussels, the CBI, the European Information and Communications Technology Association, the Federation of European Direct and Interactive Marketing, the ICC, the International Communication Round Table, and the Japan Business Council in Europe.
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