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Trump's lips sealed on surveillance, complains EU privacy chief

Concern as to whether new administration will abide by Obama's promises

By Alexander J Martin, 20 Apr 2017

The US administration has been keeping schtum regarding President Trump's plans to adhere to promises made by Obama's government on how EU citizens' data would be protected from the NSA's mass-surveillance activities.

Giovanni Buttarelli, the EU's data protection supervisor, has complained that his office is "waiting for a phone call" from the Trump administration regarding commitments made to the new Privacy Shield agreement, which extends the protections of EU data regulations to the US when EU citizens' data is transported there.

At the International Association of Privacy Professionals' (IAPP) Global Privacy Summit in Washington DC, Buteralli said that nobody from the administration had been in touch to discuss the new agreement since Trump took office.

"We're waiting for a phone call one of these days, one of these weeks," said Buttarelli. "We've given them time... and they have extremely professional people still in the administration and different players may be identified. But we are in limbo, and we hope they will take initiative soon."

Speaking to The Register back in March, Trevor Hughes, the IAPP's president and CEO, said that: "This significant friction that we see between Europe and the United States... with regards to data transfers, that is indicative of a dynamic that will exist in many jurisdictions between many jurisdictions, in many ways, forever."

I think that we see some significant concerns in the years ahead with regards to European adequacy in data transfers to the United States. The case currently going through in Dublin, certainly portends trouble ahead and the first Schrems case that went through the Safe Harbor case, if that's any indication I think that we will continue to see challenges to those data transfer mechanisms.

We will continue to see criticism of US data practices, particularly around intelligence community gathering of data in the private and public sectors, we'll continue to see those things. At the same time, however, the massive value and utility of those data flows between Europe and the United States at some point needs to become part of that policy consideration.

At some point those jurisdictions are going to step back and say, "We're part of the information economy now, and the data transfers between Europe and the United States are so incredibly important we simply cannot abide by not allowing these data transfers to occur."

Despite the assurances of the Obama administration – which were offered to mitigate these concerns – since President Trump ascended to office in January, there has been no information about whether these would be honoured.

"To share the words used by Pope Francis, he said, 'OK, let's give the Trump administration a chance to demonstrate that what you do as a government is different than what you say in the political campaign'," said Buttarelli.

The EU's data protection supervisor called for the Trump administration to send some clear signals "on everything that is directly related to the processing of data on non-US people". ®

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