Personal data risks falling outside EU jurisdiction

On July 5th ALDE Members from the Civil Liberties Committee Sophia in 't Veld (D66 Netherlands) Sarah Ludford (Liberal Democrat UK) Renate Weber (PNL Romania) and Alexander Alvaro (FDP Germany) questioned the European Commission about worrying evidence suggesting that US authorities can access on the basis of their national law (i.e. Patriot Act) EU personal data stored by companies operating in the EU that have headquarters or activities based in the US. Therefore de acto overruling EU Directive on Data Protection 95/46/EC.

Reacting to today's reply received by the Commission LIBE vice-chair Sophie in't Veld said: "The Commission must clarify this as a matter of urgency. Companies operating in Europe need to know if the data stored on their EU servers are protected by European laws or if they fall within the jurisdiction of a third country. We expect the Commission to actively defend the rights of European citizens and companies. They have to know they can rely on the EU institutions to uphold our own laws."

Sarah Ludford added: "The Commission's reply is alarmingly evasive. It fails to clearly assert that EU data protection law always applies to EU-stored data and dodges the issue of how a firm based in the US can resist US demands for access to such data."

"The Commission has stated the obvious namely that US authorities can investigate a US-based 'cloud' but not an EU-based one. Unfortunately it also has suggested that US authorities can investigate data held in an US-based cloud regardless of the fact that it might contain data from EU-citizens." commented Alexander Alvaro

"The Commission should also clarify the difficult position of certain EU based companies currently facing US subpoenas under the Patriot Act and if necessary raise this matter with the US." concluded ALDE LIBE Coordinator Renate Weber

To clarity this legal uncertainty ALDE Members sent today a letter to Commissioner Reding.

Note to editors:

The United States Patriot Act of 2001 establishes a wide range of measures for US competent authorities in the fight against terrorist acts.

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