No Safe Harbour

What is ‘safe harbour’ and what does overturning it mean for our data?

The European Union has struck down ‘safe harbour’ rules which allowed the transfer of European data to the US

A decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union will lead to tougher privacy laws for EU citizens.

Previously, US companies such as Google and Facebook would transfer data received by their European headquarters in Ireland to data storage facilities in the US.

This data could be accessed and searched by the US Government through laws such as § 1881 FISA, which let them target data of “persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

However, under EU law data could only be sent to another country if they provided ‘adequate protection’ of this personal data.

Max Schrems, an Austrian law student, brought a case to the Irish High Court arguing that the transfer of data by Facebook to the US breached EU law.

Schrems took the case in the aftermath of the revelations by Edward Snowden that the US had engaged in mass collection of personal data of both US and foreign individuals.

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Is the EU Democratic Deficit Really A Problem?

Most of the EU remains a mystery to the average citizen. There is little, if any, popular publication of what goes on in the various institutions. The perception is that decisions are made behind closed doors. To what extent is this a problem?

The EU is at a crossroads. The Euro Crisis has shaken the body to its core and put to bed the idea that the EU can gain all the benefits of integration without surrendering a substantial amount of sovereignty.

There has always been an underlying tension between those in the EU who see it as an intergovernmental body for cooperation in matters such as the market and the federalist camp who believe the goal of the EU is pursue an ‘ever-closer union’.

Now, the EU is pursuing a banking union and the Commission has the ability to look over national budgets and submit suggestions for changes. However, these measures alone are not enough to solve the broader issues that arise when you have a monetary union but not a fiscal union, the ability to redirect spending to the periphery for unemployment or economic shocks.

The debt crisis showed how damaging an incomplete union can be in real terms to citizens. The choice is broadly between reversing integration made in the last few decades in order to return to more of a loose free trade union or to move forward and create a stronger centre. Either way, standing still is not an option.

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