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The EU just tore up their privacy agreement with the US - what it means for you.

8 October 2015
by Adam Oldfield

On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Safe Harbour agreement between the US and Europe was flawed, effectively tearing up the 15 year old privacy agreement.

The agreement was put in place in 2000 to allow US companies to hold data on European citizens, and treat them with the same privacy as Europe does. This data could be your Facebook profile data, your Google search history, or your email and web activity if you are on an email list that is being held by an American company – for example MailChimp.

There have been several highly documented breaches and cover-ups over the years, rumours of the American intelligence agencies accessing the data without permission (remember Edward Snowden?), which have led to continual questioning over the security of the agreement and have certainly put the heebie-jeebies up US tech giants and global businesses.

So what happened this time?

This time, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Matt Schrems who requested that Facebook did not transmit his personal data to the US on the grounds that many US tech giants had cooperated with the National Security Agency. 

The ruling this week means we are past the point of no return when it comes to the Safe Harbour agreement, and thus the safe transfer and storage of data belonging to EU citizens.

What does this mean for marketers?

This is a difficult question. In fact, even one of the original creators of the Safe Harbour agreement, Brian Hengesbaugh commented “We can’t assume that anything is now safe… The ruling is so sweepingly broad that any mechanism used to transfer data from Europe could be under threat”.

“Today’s decision by the European Court of Justice jeopardizes thousands of businesses across the Atlantic” came another comment from executive vice-president of public policy and general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau Mike Zaneis.

Under the current deal, more than 4000 European and American companies are required to respect the privacy regulations of the country of origin - all of which are now at risk.

A lot of these companies will be tools, networks and platforms you use for your day-to-day marketing activity and contact storage.

And how does this affect email marketing?

We have long had the stance that the Safe Harbour agreement was weak at best. Our belief is that as consumers, we have the right to privacy, regardless of whether the US authorities want to snoop around. And we feel exactly the same about our clients data.

While it cannot be avoided in all areas, there is a simple solution for email marketers; avoid using suppliers who are not based in the EU to ensure the security of your customer data.

Ok, I get it, it’s serious. What now?


If you need further help or advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a data expert here at Force24. 






Photo of Adam Oldfield
Adam Oldfield
Managing Director & Founder

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