Privacy Shield court challenges face EU Commission opposition

Statue of Liberty with EU Flag

Originally published on MLex on April 11, 2017. Author: Vesela Gladicheva

Attempts to annul the EU-US data transfer accord in the EU courts are facing opposition from the bloc's executive arm, MLex has learned.

The European Commission has asked EU judges to dismiss two lawsuits by Irish and French civil-society groups against the Privacy Shield deal before the court hears the pleas, it is understood.

The General Court in Luxembourg is still scrutinizing the validity of the court actions launched in 2016, and deciding whether to review them.

Companies are paying close attention to the court's moves, and a decision to advance the lawsuits could spell legal uncertainty for the group of almost 2,000 that already signed up for the Privacy Shield.

The commission lodged the first "application for inadmissibility" against civil-rights group Digital Rights Ireland on Dec. 23. The second action — against La Quadrature du Net, a collection of French civil-society groups — reached the court on Jan. 31, it is understood.

Judges will rule on the commission's requests before deciding on the substance of the cases, it is understood.

The commission declined to comment.

The Privacy Shield arrangement entered into force last August after almost three years of negotiations between EU and US officials. The deal aims to improve the flow of personal data for commercial purposes across the Atlantic.

The accord was drawn up to replace a "Safe Harbor" mechanism, which was struck down in 2015 by Europe's highest court because the arrangement failed to sufficiently safeguard EU citizens' personal data. Some 4,500 companies — including Google and Coca-Cola — had signed up to that mechanism.

Last year, European data-protection authorities pledged not to start legal actions against the Privacy Shield until its first annual review in September this year.