Microsoft gets behind controversial EU-US Privacy Shield

A qualified endorsement as sentiment grows that it does not go far enough...

Microsoft gets behind controversial EU-US Privacy Shield

Image: Photocall Ireland

Microsoft has become the first United States tech giant to sign up for the EU-US Privacy Shield.

Announcing that Microsoft would follow the guidelines of the new transatlantic commercial data pact to transfer its users' information to the US, Vice President of EU Government Affairs John Frank wrote in an official blog post that the company will "put in place new commitments to advance privacy as this instrument is implemented".

A draft pact was made by Brussels and Washington back in February to replace 'Safe Harbour'.

That old agreement had allowed EU citizens' data to be transferred through Ireland and on to America, until the European Court of Justice ruled that it impinged on people's privacy laws and should not be allowed in September 2015.

Despite today's significant endorsement, the EU-US Privacy Shield has already come in for criticism, with privacy groups arguing that it fails to address concerns about surveillance practices currently in place in the US.

Max Schrems, the Austrian law student who won his case against Safe Harbour, has written that the Privacy Shield would fail in a similar manner if tested in the courts.

Microsoft's thumbs-up comes the day before EU data protection regulators themselves meet to decide whether it should endorse it.

Frank also offered some reservations on Microsoft's behalf:

"As a company, we’ve also said since last fall that no single legal instrument can address for all time all of the privacy issues on both sides of the Atlantic.

"We continue to believe today that additional steps will be needed to build upon the Privacy Shield after it is adopted, ranging from additional domestic legislation to modernization of mutual legal assistance treaties and new bilateral and ultimately multilateral agreements. But we believe that the Privacy Shield as negotiated provides a strong foundation on which to build".

The digital services trade between the EU and US is valued at €227 billion.