The LIBE Committee Wants To “Suspend” The Safe Harbor… Along With Thousands of EU Employee Salaries


The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) released a draft report yesterday calling for the European Commission to suspend the US-EU Safe Harbor.  FPF has written an in-depth report analyzing the effectiveness of the current Safe Harbor regime and cautioning the European Commission not to revoke the agreement, which has been largely successful in safeguarding user privacy while promoting international data transfers.  We’ve yet to see the Committee’s actual draft, but we are nonetheless concerned that the Commission is so willing to suspend the framework, especially when it will mean that thousands of EU employees risk experiencing delays in getting their paychecks.

The Safe Harbor is a well-established mechanism for the transfer of data between the US and EU and is designed to streamline compliance requirements for US small businesses.  One of the most common types of data transferred from the EU to the US is human resources data – this is because many EU data subjects work for US companies in Europe.  In fact, FPF has searched through the Safe Harbor List and found that over 1,695 companies listed as “current” members use the Safe Harbor to process their human resources data.  That’s over 50% of all companies currently in the program.

If the Safe Harbor framework were suspended, EU citizens whose HR data is stored or handled in the US would be heavily burdened.  US companies who hire EU citizens would need to revert to model contracts, which are strict and expensive to implement (particularly for small businesses).  Inhibiting the flow of HR data between the US and EU could mean delays for EU citizens receiving their paychecks, or a decline in global hiring by US companies.

FPF urges the LIBE committee to consider our recommendations to improve the Safe Harbor framework rather than create additional burdens and expense for companies that employ EU residents.  These recommendations, which include Chris Connolly’s suggestion of appointing a “Safe Harbor Master,” adequately address EU concerns about user privacy while allowing US and EU businesses to continue growing.