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EU, US strike preliminary deal to unlock transatlantic data flows

Brussels and Washington have struck an agreement in principle on a revamped “Privacy Shield” data transfer agreement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday.

Negotiators have been working on an agreement — which allows Europeans’ personal data to flow to the United States — since the EU’s top court struck down the Privacy Shield agreement in July 2020 because of fears that the data was not safe from access by American agencies once transferred across the Atlantic.

The EU chief’s comments Friday show both sides have reached a political breakthrough, coinciding with U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Brussels this week.

“I am pleased that we found an agreement in principle on a new framework for transatlantic data flows. This will enable predictable and trustworthy data flows between the EU and U.S., safeguarding privacy and civil liberties,” she said.

Biden said the framework would allow the EU “to once again authorize transatlantic data flows that help facilitate $7.1 trillion in economic relationships.”

Friday’s announcement will come as a relief to the hundreds of companies that had faced mounting legal uncertainty over how to shuttle everything from payroll information to social media post data to the U.S.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic had been struggling to bridge an impasse over what it means to give Europeans’ effective legal redress against surveillance by U.S. authorities. Not all of those issues have been resolved, though von der Leyen’s comments Friday suggest technical solutions are within reach.

Despite the ripples of relief Friday’s announcement will send through the business community, any deal is likely to be challenged in the courts by privacy campaigners.

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