U.S. and EU leaders announced Friday morning they've come to "an agreement in principle on a new framework" that would seek to give companies moving data between two continents comfort that they're complying with divergent approaches to privacy.
Details on the plan are sparse, and a key privacy advocate is already threatening to challenge the new framework in court, but tech companies are nonetheless celebrating the announcement because of the anxieties they've had since Europe's top court struck down the prior framework in 2020. That decision invalidated the so-called Privacy Shield framework, as the court held that it did not sufficiently protect users in Europe from far-reaching U.S. surveillance law. The ruling set off a scramble by thousands of companies, which suddenly had to deal with concerns that data flows representing vast sums of commerce rested on a shaky legal foundation.
President Joe Biden and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the agreement together, but did not give specifics on it.
"This will enable predictable and trustworthy data flows between the EU and U.S., safeguarding privacy and civil liberties," von der Leyen said, adding only that the agreement would "balance security and the right to privacy and data protection."
Biden said the framework would "help facilitate $7.1 trillion in economic relationships" between the U.S. and EU.
The deal would actually represent the third attempt to smooth the differences in data-protection rights between the U.S. and Europe. European courts nullified both of the prior two agreements — Safe Harbor, which held from 2000 to 2015, and Privacy Shield, which began in 2016 — over concerns that U.S. government surveillance meant the deals could not protect the data of EU citizens sufficiently to comply with the bloc's laws.
Max Schrems, the privacy campaigner whose lawsuits eventually led to the demise of the previous two deals, said in a tweet that the newest agreement would likely "fail again." He added in a written statement that his group could get the new framework back in front of the EU's top court "within a matter of months."