The European Commission (EC) has called upon the US to undertake several steps in order to restore trust following the revelations of wholesale data snooping sparked by PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The EC says the rules of "safe harbour" – the regulations which place US companies handling EU citizen data under the same data protection rules as European firms – are not working as intended, and therefore need to be made more stringent. It discussed scrapping safe harbour altogether if US businesses failed to comply, although this would be a last resort.
Safe harbour is a form of regulation that invariably affects cloud computing providers as data is often hosted outside the country in which the customer is based. The EC has found that there are too many weaknesses in the rules, coming to the conclusion that US businesses not conforming to safe harbour are gaining an unfair advantage above the EU businesses that are.
Elsewhere, the EC called upon EU-US co-operation on data transfers for law enforcement operations, requesting a speedy conclusion to ongoing talks on an "umbrella agreement".
It also asked the US to take into account EU citizens when it reforms its own national security practices. This follows the National Security Agency's (NSA) widespread tapping of European internet traffic, which seemingly disregarded any borders and laws.
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said the EC had a responsibility to continue to pressure the US into taking action. "Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic need to be reassured that their data is protected and companies need to know existing agreements are respected and enforced," she said. "Today, the European Commission is setting out actions that would help to restore trust and strengthen data protection in transatlantic relations.
"There is now a window of opportunity to rebuild trust, which we expect our American partners to use, notably by working with determination towards a swift conclusion of the negotiations on an EU-US. data protection umbrella agreement."
EU trust in the US has been severely shaken in the months following the PRISM scandal, with Germany accusing US spies of tapping vice chancellor Angela Merkel's phone. EC staff and buildings were also under the watchful eye of US spies, according to the leaks.
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