EU and US government officials deadlock on data sharing agreement
The US flag and the flag of the European Union displayed together at the European Union Headquarters, July 2015Getty Images

The European Union and United States have missed a self-imposed deadline for an agreement to protect online data of EU citizens from US spying. The European Commission and the US Department of Commerce have been deadlocked in talks following the ruling of an EU justice court in October 2015 that deemed the previous EU-US safe harbour decree inoperative and void.

Both parties have been rushing ever since to rewrite the existing laws relating to EU sharing private citizens' data with its neighbouring continent.

Commenting on the delay caused by both parties on reaching an agreement, a spokesperson for the European Commission, on 1 February, said: "There have been constructive but difficult talks over the weekend. Work is still ongoing, we are not there yet, but the commission is working day and night on achieving a deal."

Safe harbour agreement

The safe harbour agreement was put into effect in 2000 after the EU and the US reached an agreement on the sanctioned transfer of EU citizens' private online data across the Atlantic. However, the law was deemed ineffective and pulled by the European court in 2015, following the uproar over former NSA agent turned whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaked intelligence documents.

Snowden's controversial leaked documents revealed how the US government seamlessly gained access to emails, social media posts and even telephone calls. The revelation triggered a case, filed by Austrian law student Max Schrems. The privacy campaigner filed a complaint against Facebook in 2013, effectively shining a spotlight on the prevalent loopholes of data sharing laws in the EU.

EU privacy laws

The current EU privacy laws restrict private citizens' data from being moved outside the continent. However, exceptions are made in case data has been moved to a location that shares similar online and data protection policies with the EU. Although officials from both the EU and the US governments are currently still locked in talks on finalising a new monitored data sharing policy, EU sources say that an agreement could be reached in the coming week, the Guardian reported.

Data and privacy regulators from 28 European national data protection agencies are slated to meet on 2-3 February to discuss the prevalent laws and work on developing new measures.