Four business groups representing the world’s biggest technology companies have told US and EU policy makers to reach an agreement regarding data flows between the two regions or face dire economic consequences.
Business Europe, the US Chamber of Commerce, Digital Europe and the Information Technology Industry Councils represent firms ranging from Apple and Microsoft to Huawei and Facebook, and have signed the letter, addressed to president Obama, the president of the European Commission, and the president of the European Council.
“This issue must be resolved immediately or the consequences could be enormous for the thousands of businesses and millions of users affected,” it stated.
“Cross-border data flows are essential to innovation, job creation and economic growth in Europe and the US. We are writing to convey the critical importance of your efforts to come to a comprehensive and sustainable transatlantic agreement concerning data transfers.”
Negotiations between the US and UK begun last year but were given fresh urgency in November after the European Court of Justice ruled that the Safe Harbour framework governing data transfers from the EU to the US was not secure.
The concerns stemmed from the fact it could not be guaranteed that data on European citizens would not be spied on by the US authorities, in light of the Snowden revelations of 2013.
To tackle this, the letter urges the policymakers to agree a policy that works in the short term to help firms operate as normal and which can be reasonably implemented across businesses of all sizes, as cloud use grows.
“Following conclusion of an agreement, it is important to provide a reasonable transition period in order for companies to come into compliance with the revised framework," they wrote.
“This is especially important for the large number of small- and medium-sized enterprises that have depended entirely on the Safe Harbour to transfer data.”
In particular, the groups said that the new framework must strike the right balance between ensuring businesses can operate as required, and that user data is given the protection it requires.
"In order to provide the certainty needed to ensure data flows, innovation and economic growth, the EU and the US should work to establish a legally durable framework that reflects shared principles on privacy and security, including with respect to surveillance activities," the letter said.
This balance between security and privacy is likely to be the key sticking point between the negotiators, and whether the opinions of leading US tech giants changes this is debatable, given the US government's desire for data.
Meanwhile, similar plans are being pushed by the UK government under the Investigatory Powers Bill. Home secretary Theresa May discussed the proposals last week while being grilled by MPs.
North Korean hackers reportedly step up their activity as tensions with the US increase
Ice Lake probably won't appear before 2019 at the earliest
Krzanich follows Kevin Plank of Under Armor and Kenneth Frazier of Merck
Release of latest version of Android imminent