U.S., EU Name First Privacy Shield Data Transfer Complaint Arbitrators


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The U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, have named 16 independent arbitrators that will help resolve privacy complaints related to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield data transfer program.

The Privacy Shield is used by more than 2,400 U.S. companies that certify their compliance with EU-approved privacy principles to Commerce, including Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google, and Microsoft Corp., to transfer data out of the EU more easily. Tens of thousands of EU companies, in turn, rely on the Privacy Shield to transfer data to those U.S. companies.

Giving affected individuals opportunities to raise and resolve complaints over how their information transferred to the U.S. is privacy protected was essential to the EU’s approval of the Privacy Shield. Having the privacy oversight measures for the program in place as the program heads into its first annual review in mid-September is important to EU officials who have expressed concern over whether President Donald Trump is committed to limiting government access to data transferred to the U.S.

U.S. companies in the Privacy Shield program make legally enforceable commitments to protect data transferred from the EU to the U.S., and commit to binding arbitration of privacy claims. Parties to the arbitration agree to resolution by arbitrators—either a single arbitrator or a panel of three-who have the authority to mete out “individual-specific, non-monetary equitable relief, such as correction, deletion, or the return of the data.”

The arbitrators must be admitted to practice law in the U.S. and have U.S. and EU privacy law expertise. Commerce and the Commission said they chose arbitrators with “freedom from bias and prejudice” and that demonstrated “integrity, fairness, and good judgment.” Arbitrators serve a three-year term, which can be renewed once for an additional three-years.

The first group of 16 approved arbitrators come from a number of privacy-related backgrounds, including lawyers practicing at law firms, privacy professors, and former government officials. 

Commerce said it will re-publish the Federal Register notice and select an additional four arbitrators to bring the group up to the 20 total provided for in the Privacy Shield pact.

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