No Safe Harbour

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

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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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Money Talks

Why do American politicians need to be dragged kicking and screaming to pass a law which allows its citizens, not free healthcare, but the right to buy insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions? Why does the US allow foods and drugs on the market which the EU has banned for being unsafe and unhealthy? Why does the US spend more on weapons and defence than the next 25 biggest spenders combined?

The answer lies in a decision made by the Supreme Court of the US in the ‘70s which struck down an attempt to limit campaign donations and ruled that spending money to influence elections is constitutionally protected. Essentially, money equals speech. Another decision in 2010 allowed unlimited donations by anyone, individual or corporate. Contributors can remain anonymous.

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