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Trans-atlantic data pact used by Apple violates privacy, says EU Court

The European Court of Justice has taken aim at an agreement used by thousands of high-profile companies – including Apple – for trans-atlantic data transfer, arguing that it violates the privacy of European citizens.

The Safe Harbor pact, written in 2000, allows companies to move personal information from Europe to the U.S., but the new ruling means that the agreement can now be overridden by EU regulators if they decide the transfers aren’t providing sufficient privacy protection.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the move “throws into jeopardy traffic that underpins the world’s largest trading relationship.” It affects a whole host of services like cloud storage that make up a lot of business for Apple and other tech companies. Apple may try to appeal the decision, while others such as Google and Facebook who rely heavily on advertising may be hit even harder if the ruling stands.

Vice President of ITIF Daniel Castro says that “it’s hard to imagine a more disruptive action to trans-Atlantic digital commerce.” The fallout from this decision could be huge, but it may ultimately spell better privacy laws to protect regular folk from data surveillance.

The move won’t immediately end personal data transfers but it would force companies to be more careful with privacy lest their activity get suspended by regulators. Arguably the best outcome would be to draw up a completely new pact that offers increased privacy for customers without putting an embargo on data transfer altogether.

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