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US, EU officials open negotiations into transatlantic data transfer laws

The European Commission and U.S. officials opened negotiations in Brussels on Oct. 18 over the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, a set of laws governing transatlantic data transfers, after the 28-member bloc's parliament voted to suspend the framework this year.

Over the course of two days, European policymakers and U.S. representatives, including Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and members of The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, will scrutinize the legislation as part of its second annual review.

The conclusions will be published before the end of this year, Věra Jourová, the commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, said in an Oct. 18 tweet. Jourová added that the negotiations would assess ways to implement "vigorous and proactive enforcement" of privacy rules as well as limits to U.S. authorities' access to the personal data of European Union citizens.

The legal framework, which covers almost 4,000 companies including Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc., came under criticism in the aftermath of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach. The events gave rise to concern about the failure of U.S. authorities to provide adequate data protection for EU citizens under the new General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

Privacy experts said the Privacy Shield faces a potential suspension and that the business effect of halting data flows could have severe consequences for transatlantic digital services worth an estimated $70 billion trade surplus for the U.S. in 2015.