On Tuesday, Europe’s highest court struck down an agreement that allowed users’ personal information to be transmitted from the European Union to the United States. The agreement, generally called “Safe Harbor,” applied to surveillance agencies like the NSA, as well as companies like Google, which provided search results to online advertisers looking for information on consumers.
The European Union essentially said that European states can set their own standards for transmission of personal information online. Many European countries are far more privacy-centric than the United States, which could spell trouble for Silicon Valley firms and pave the way for homegrown European rivals to outmaneuver the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
The Washington Post noted that the decision is transforming the surveillance debate and will make it much harder for global agencies–ranging from the NSA to their equivalents in the U.K. and beyond–to spy on Europeans. Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a U.S. digital rights group, says the European Union ruling is a step in the right direction.
“Today’s decision by the European Court of Justice jeopardizes thousands of businesses across the Atlantic,” Interactive Advertising Bureau executive Mike Zaneis said in a statement. Companies like Google and Facebook may now have to navigate a complicated legal framework to figure out how best to proceed in Europe. At the moment, most tech firms are still operating normally, citing other agreements with the European Union that they claim are still intact; those agreements are expected to come under scrutiny soon, as well.
[via New York Times]