Cheers Ireland! That sorts our Safe Harbour issues out – Dropbox

Irish data protection is now for life, not just St Patrick's day

Following Twitter’s lead, Dropbox will treat Africans, Asians and Australians as Europeans from June 1.

The file transfer site has updated its privacy rules so that all accounts outside North America will be managed by Dropbox Ireland.

This means that stricter European data protection laws will apply, rather than US rules.

The new terms will be applied to old accounts from June 1, but will be effective on any new accounts (opened since May 1) immediately.

The timing of the move is significant, as sources told El Reg that the company is getting ready for European courts to pull the plug on the so-called Safe Harbour agreement between the EU and the US.

The European Parliament has repeatedly called for the Safe Harbour deal to be suspended, arguing that the voluntary register does not sufficiently protect Europeans’ data privacy rights.

Now a complaint brought by “Angry Austrian™” Max Schrems could topple the 15-year-old deal.

Schrems alleges that Facebook violated fundamental European rights by transferring personal user data to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

After the Irish Data Protection Commissioner refused to investigate, citing Safe Harbour rules, the case was referred first to the Irish High Court and has now gone all the way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

On June 24, the Advocate General of the ECJ will give his opinion on whether national authorities should be allowed to suspend data transfers to the US. This is not legally binding, but will be a strong indication on how the court will eventually rule.

If the outcome is that Safe Harbour does not protect EU rights, US companies transferring data out of Europe could find themselves in hot water.

Twitter and Dropbox may be ahead of the game, but if the AG agrees with the European Parliament, expect an unseemly scramble as American companies with bases in Europe attempt to get their houses in order. ®

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