EU and U.S. agree to new data-sharing pact, offering some respite for Big Tech

The European Union and the United States declared on Friday that they had reached a “in principle” agreement on a new framework for cross-border data transfers, bringing much-needed respite to internet behemoths like as Meta and Google.

For more than a year, authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been negotiating a replacement for the so-called Privacy Shield, a pact that allows companies to exchange Europeans’ data with the US.

In July 2020, the Privacy Shield was declared invalid, dealing a blow to Facebook and other corporations that had relied on it for their EU-US data exchanges. The EU’s top court ruled with Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist who believed the present system did not safeguard Europeans against U.S. spying.

The new deal would “allow predictable and trustworthy data transfers between the EU and the US, respecting privacy and civil liberties,” according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who did not go into any detail about how it will function.

The news of the accord will provide some relief to Meta and a number of other companies that have been dealing with legal uncertainty about how they transport data across borders since the decision to dismantle Privacy Shield. Meta had previously stated that it may be forced to shut down Facebook and Instagram in Europe as a result of the problem.

The agreement “would give important certainty for American and European enterprises of all sizes, including Meta, who rely on moving data rapidly and safely,” according to Meta’s president of global relations, Nick Clegg.

However, Guillaume Couneson, a data protection partner at Linklaters, cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether the new pact would survive the test of time. Privacy Shield itself was the replacement for Safe Harbor, an earlier EU-U.S. data accord.

The “final text” of the new deal, according to Schrems, will need more time to come through. Schrems was key in bringing down both the Privacy Shield and the Safe Harbor agreements. He said, though, that he is prepared to dispute it “if it is not in accordance with EU legislation.”

Big Tech, also known as the Tech Giants, Big Four, or Big Five, refers to the four or five largest, most powerful, and prestigious corporations in the United States’ information technology industry. Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, and Meta (Facebook) make up the Big Four, with Microsoft rounding up the Big Five.

E-commerce, online advertising, consumer electronics, cloud computing, computer software, media streaming, artificial intelligence, smart home, self-driving cars, and social networking are all sectors where the tech giants are prominent. They were among the world’s most valuable public corporations, with market capitalizations ranging from roughly $1 trillion to more than $3 trillion.