Safe Harbour Agreement Ruled Invalid

You may be aware that in recent years, the EU has been trying to limit the US government’s access to EU citizens’ data stored in the US, and to allow EU citizens to sue US companies in US courts should they misuse their data.   

‘Safe Harbour’ was put in place in 2000, at which time it was agreed between the EU and the US government that EU citizens’ data would be protected if transferred to the US.

On 6th October 2015, the Court of Justice of European Union (CJEU) ruled that the Safe Harbour agreement is no longer valid.  This is a result of the fact that the CJEU does not believe enough is being done in US to uphold this requirement. 

What does this mean for the mystery shopping industry? 

Articles published by leading research companies/spokespersons across Europe have suggested that we have now entered into a grace period i.e. a period of time to assess the situation, and evaluate whether the agreement has any implications at individual company level. The grace period will end in January 2016, by which time a more definite course of action will be required.

It is reasonable to suggest, on the basis of what we know so far, that market research companies will no longer be permitted to:

  • Transmit personal data (i.e. shopper information) from EU to US  
  • Host online questionnaires - completed by EU shoppers - in the US
  • Use the cloud to further process such data, if the servers are not located in the EU

What should you do next?

To our knowledge, the United States and the European Commission are currently working towards a negotiated solution to replace the Safe Harbor agreement. In the interim, the Department of Commerce has stated that it will continue to administer the Safe Harbor programme.

However, MSPA EU strongly recommends that if any members are unsure how the breakdown of the Safe Harbour agreement affects them, they seek legal advice at a local level and/or contact their software providers directly to discuss their personal situation in more detail.  Meanwhile, MSPA will continue to seek further clarification and commit to publishing our findings to the membership in a timely manner.

Shopmetrics, Sassie and Checker have all been in touch with us to assure us that they monitoring the development in order to act in the best interests of their clients dependent on outcome.  All would welcome the opportunity to discuss specific concerns directly with their clients, and Shopmetrics have extended an offer to share their expertise on this matter with any MSPA members who may have concerns.

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