Negotiations over how companies can transfer personal data across the Atlantic are ongoing, and a vote is expected by February 2, 2016, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“We have a comprehensive package that we’ve worked out over the last two years with the European Commission,” said Pritzker. “We’re down to the last few issues. My hope is that we’ll get all of this done shortly.”
EU officials are working on finalizing their position on data transfers from the European Union to the United States. This comes after the European Court of Justice struck down a 15-year-old transatlantic data-sharing privacy framework called Safe Harbor last year. Safe Harbor was the agreement under which U.S. companies were permitted to transfer Europeans’ personal data to the U.S. without violating EU data-protection laws.
The European Commission is leading the talks on the EU side, and the onus is now on the U.S. to comply with European privacy regulations.
“It’s complicated, but we have to keep in mind what’s at stake here,” said Pritzker. “Trade is at stake. Our economy is at stake. The digital trade back and forth between the U.S. and Europe is about $260 billion per year and a lot of jobs. We’re working to try and resolve issues that would be affected if Safe Harbor went away.”
And the uncertainty does not just impact big U.S. consumer tech firms. Pritzker noted that a total of 4,400 companies have benefited from Safe Harbor. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, individual country data-protection authorities will be able to halt EU-U.S. data transfers.
“It’s important we address the issues raised by the EU, address the issues raised by the European Court of Justice, and bring Safe Harbor to the 21st century,” said Pritzker. “We need to move forward. It’s very important for transatlantic trade.”