Firms will suffer if new Safe Harbour deal fails, Obama warned

Several EU flags hoisted outside a building

Thousands of businesses will lose out if the US and EU fail to renew the Safe Harbour agreement at the start of next month, trade groups have told US President Barack Obama.

The US Chamber of Commerce, BusinessEurope, DigitalEurope and the Information Technology Industry Council penned an open letter to US President Barack Obama and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warning of the consequences if a new data protection deal is not forthcoming.

They wrote: "This issue must be resolved immediately or the consequences could be enormous for the thousands of businesses and millions of users impacted."

The Safe Harbour agreement, which protected EU data from government access when transferred to the US, was ruled invalid last year after the European Court of Justice decided America would value anti-terrorist measures above personal privacy.

Privacy regulators will meet in Brussels on 2 February to complete a renegotiation of the deal.

But the open letter also argued for a transition period to allow smaller businesses that rely on Safe Harbour to transfer to the new legislation in a longer timeframe without being punished.

However, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who is in charge of the negotiations on behalf of the EU, explained at a conference that the issue is a lot more complicated than simply coming up with a quick-fire solution.

"Only a comprehensive arrangement with clear legal commitments can ensure the protection of personal data," she said. "When data travels, the protection has to travel with it."

Negotiations are set to continue this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos as European and US officials try to object to EU privacy regulators' ruling that Safe Harbour is invalid.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.