Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems

BRUSSELS : Top court scraps EU-US data pact in new blow to Brussels.

A crucial online data arrangement between Europe and the US was invalidated on Thursday, as a top EU court decision over Facebook threw trans-Atlantic big tech into legal limbo.

The decision stemmed from a legal complaint by Austrian activist Max Schrems, who in 2015 scuppered a previous EU-US deal on which tech giants depended to do business.

''It seems we scored a 100 per cent win,'' Schrems said on Twitter.

''For our privacy, the US will have to engage in serious surveillance reform to get back to a  'privileged' status for US companies,'' he said.

The setback comes a day after another European court invalidated a landmark tax bill from the EU against Apple, raising questions over the bloc's long-running leadership on regulating big tech.

While disappointed, the EU and US said they would work closely to find a solution and give companies the legal certainty they need.

Schrems' legal assault began after revelations by Edward Snowden of mass digital spying by US agencies, which the EU court at the time said were incompatible with European norms on privacy.

The previous decision struck down a deal called ''Safe Harbour'' that allowed for data transfers  between Europe and US  servers., throwing transatlantic business into chaos.

EU and US officials swiftly drew up its replacement, ''Privacy Shield'', which is currently used by thousands of US companies, but has now been invalidated as well.

The judges at the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court, said that provisions of the pact ''do not grant European actionable rights before the courts against the US authorities''.

The court said, however, that another arrangement known as standard contractual clauses, could stand, giving companies an alternative framework.

The case decided on Thursday originally focused on these complex clauses, an EU invention by which companies outside Europe commit to meeting EU laws on data and privacy. [AFP]


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