EU Commissioner Justice Didier Reynders spoke this week at the Brookings Institutions in Washington DC on “Advancing the transatlantic dialogue in the aftermath of Schrems II.” The discussion followed a recent judgement from the Court of Justice of the European Union that rejected the legal basis for the transfer of the personal data from the European Union to the United States. Policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic are now exploring legal strategies to maintain transatlantic data flows. But primary responsibility will fall to the EU Justice Commissioner to ensure that future transfers of personal data comply with the ruling of the Court of Justice. Reynders has remarked that there is “no quick fix.”
Citing recent developments in the United States and around the globe, Commissioner Reynders said at Brookings, “It is increasingly clear that comprehensive privacy rules are key to the response to the global challenges we face today.” Commissioner Reynders stated, “it is clear that this increasing convergence in privacy laws around the world offers new opportunities to facilitate data flows.” He also said, “we should work together including with all like-minded allies on initiatives that promote this type of convergence” and suggested that Data Free Flow with Trust, an initiative of the Japanese government noted in a recent CAIDP Update, as a basis for future cooperation.
Commissioner Reynder also discussed artificial intelligence. “The EU has to seize the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence,” he said. “But of course,” he continued, “AI should also respect citizens fundamental rights to privacy and data protection.” Reynder highlighted the European Commission White Paper on AI, also noted in a recent CAIDP Update, on a human-centric approach that promotes trust and excellence. Reynder endorsed the efforts of private firms to establish human rights-based rules and to limit the use of facial recognition. He proposed an EU-US collaboration on artificial intelligence. “An EU-US framework will need to promote respect for fundamental rights, including human dignity, equality, non-discrimination, and protection of privacy and personal data.” And Reynders spoke to the current debate about bias in AI. “It is also a common goal to ensure that discriminations that happen in the offline world are not replicated and amplified by the use of AI.”
Access Now, a leading civil society organization, has raised concerns about the European Commission’s AI initiative, stating that the “EU should acknowledge that the public procurement of AI systems offers an opportunity to enforce high standards on AI systems and thereby contribute to its goal of creating an ecosystem of trust and excellence. Any use of AI systems in the public sector should be subject to especially high standards of transparency and every measure should be taken to ensure that fundamental rights are protected.”
On one point there is clear agreement between the EU Justice Commissioner and the Austrian privacy advocate Max Schrems, who has twice prevailed at the Court of Justice – there should be no “Schrems III” judgement. “I would like to retire,” Max has said with a smile.
Marc Rotenberg, Director
Center for AI and Digital Policy at Michael Dukakis Institute
The Center for AI and Digital Policy, founded in 2020, advises governments on technology policy