Data protection authorities in the European Union expressed concern Wednesday that a new deal with the United States aimed at protecting transatlantic data flows will still allow the bulk collection of information for national security purposes.
In February, the EU and the US agreed in principle on a new system to protect the movement of information. An EU court had struck down the previous Safe Harbor framework as insufficient, following revelations in 2013 of mass spying by US intelligence authorities.
A working group comprising the data protection authorities of all 28 EU member states has since been assessing the new arrangement, known as the EU-US Privacy Shield.
The group has found that the new setup is an overall improvement on Safe Harbor, its chairwoman Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.
However, she expressed concerns that the draft agreement still grants US authorities the possibility to collect private data in bulk and use it for security, counterterrorism and international crime-fighting purposes.
Random bulk collection of data is "not acceptable," Falque-Pierrotin said, while noting that there is a "growing tendency to collect ever more data on a massive and indiscriminate scale in light of the fight against terrorism."
The data protection watchdogs also expressed concern over the legal avenues for citizens to challenge the collection or use of their data. These are too complex, Falque-Pierrotin said, while also raising questions about the independence of the ombudsperson overseeing the deal.
Officials in Brussels and Washington are still hammering out final details of the Privacy Shield, with the European Commission expected to make a final decision in June. Falque-Pierrotin expressed hope that their concerns would be taken on board.
On Tuesday, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova gave assurances that this would be the case.
If there are still legal grey areas once the new system is in place, Falque-Pierrotin said new challenges before the European courts could not be ruled out.
"You can't prevent anyone from going in front of the courts," she said.