European Union and U.S. Agree on Data-Sharing Pact

The European Union and the United States struck a deal Tuesday over data-sharing that will allow the likes of Facebook and Apple to continue sending people's information across the Atlantic.

The sides had been trying to forge an agreement since October, when Europe's top court struck down the previous pact -- known as Safe Harbor -- amid concerns that Europeans' personal data stored by companies in the U.S. might be exposed to spying by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The new deal, once put in place, potentially brings an end to a period of uncertainty that had raised the prospect of legal challenges by individuals across the 28-country EU worried about privacy.

"Our people can be sure that their personal data is fully protected," said Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner responsible for the digital single market. "Our businesses, especially the smallest ones, have the legal certainty they need to develop their activities across the Atlantic."

Ansip said the new framework, which will be known as EU-US Privacy Shield, will ensure the "right checks and balances" for European citizens and added that it "offers significant improvements" to the previous deal, which had been struck in the early days of the Internet at the turn of the century.

"This solution is much better than the one we had in the year 2000," he said.

Under the new deal, there will be an annual joint review of the data-sharing pact, with the first expected sometime next year. The U.S. has also promised to appoint a new official -- a so-called ombudsman based at the State Department -- responsible for following up on complaints upon referral from EU data protection officers.

"It's Safe Harbor with teeth," said Dyann Heward-Mills, Head of Data Protection at London-based legal firm Baker & McKenzie. "I think this is good for business certainty and consumer trust."

In its October...

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