This is a story that appeared on CNBC.com back on February 1, 2016. Posted here just for the record.
Negotiators from the United States and Europe will meet Tuesday to discuss a new set of rules to protect the personal data of Europeans. Failure to reach a "safe harbor" agreement could force American Internet goliaths like Amazon, Facebook and Google to change the way they manage customer information or face the risk of tens of millions of dollars in fines for violating the European Union's increasingly tough privacy regulations.
Revenue at risk
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker assured attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week that the two sides were working hard on a comprehensive agreement, but she conceded that stumbling blocks remained over mass surveillance by U.S. security agencies and the right of European citizens to review their personal information.
Without a new deal, U.S. Internet companies could be forced to keep European customer data separate, adding complexity to their already far-flung operations and raising their costs. This week Facebook announced it was setting up its second data center in Europe, possibly positioning itself in case it needed to segregate European customer data. In addition, the French newspaper Le Monde reported Thursday that Google was also taking steps to allow European citizens to delete their information, meeting an EU demand that consumers be given a right to be "forgotten."
Talks have been under way for two years to revise the 15-year-old Safe Harbor Agreement, which gave U.S. companies blanket legal protection to transfer European customer information across the Atlantic. However, negotiations became more urgent last October when the European Court of Justice unexpectedly ruled that Irish authorities (where Facebook and other U.S. tech companies have European headquarters) had failed to adequately protect the privacy of European citizens.