Europe's highest court struck down on Tuesday the "safe harbor" agreement, which allowed companies to transmit digital data from the European Union to the United States, over concerns regarding privacy protection.
The ruling resulted from the international backlash over the N.S.A.'s Prism program, which Edward Snowden revealed to be using data from companies such as Google and Facebook. As a result, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated that the United States "does not afford an adequate level of protection of personal data" that agrees with European standards.
The decision does not immediately stop the flow of information across the Atlantic; companies are still permitted to transfer data while each European country individually decides their policies, but nobody is expected to diverge from the ECJ's ruling. In addition, the United States and European Union will work together on a new agreement to address these privacy concerns.
This a huge victory for EU privacy rights against US mass surveillance—Safe harbour ruled invalid: http://t.co/yuX29Czru9
— Open Rights Group (@OpenRightsGroup) octubre 6, 2015
While advocates of the plan state that it is a victory for privacy protection and that it will give Europeans greater control over their information, critics believe that it will interrupt the operations of large international networks, including any company with employees in more than one location. For example, the ability to manage employee benefits online could be impacted since it involves transferring data internationally.
#news U.S. disappointed by EU court ruling striking down data share deal: BRUSSELS, Oct 6 (Reuters) -… http://t.co/ac74WGUsxy #company
— News 24h Usa (@news24husa) octubre 6, 2015
The lawsuit that generated this ruling originated with Max Schrems, a 27-year-old Austrian law student who claimed that the N.S.A. clearly violated European privacy laws by using information from Facebook for Prism.
This information, which Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, was particularly troubling to a European society that views privacy as a fundamental right. Companies like Facebook and Google have access to personal messages, the websites you visit and how long you spend on them, the videos you watch, location tracking, and significantly more.
With the knowledge that the N.S.A. had paid tech companies millions for their compliance, privacy advocates continue to push for a system that allows protection around the world; this ruling represents a landmark in their goals.
Congratulations, @MaxSchrems. You've changed the world for the better. http://t.co/HmGpRq5Dgt pic.twitter.com/rTLYHhvmoY
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) octubre 6, 2015