05 Apr 2017

Trump’s Travel Bans: Harvesting personal data and requiem for the EU-US Privacy Shield

Elspeth Guild / Didier Bigo / Sergio Carrera

Download Publication


This Policy Insight examines the main implications and challenges of the recent Executive Orders or ‘travel bans’ issued by US President Donald Trump. It argues that one of the key ulterior motives behind these orders is to manoeuvre the US into an advantageous position for harvesting personal data on individuals from around the world, including EU citizens and residents. The paper analyses these orders and other recent US legislative developments that allow for greater access and processing of raw communications of EU citizens, and argues that they put the sustainability of the EU-US Privacy Shield and the EU right to privacy under profound strain. The authors call for more diplomacy and democratic rule of law with fundamental rights guarantees and cooperation, as the most effective antidote to the pervasive mistrust and legal uncertainty engendered by these Executive Orders. In any case these developments call for the European Commission to take an assertive position and suspend the EU-US Privacy Shield, as this is the only way to ensure legal certainty for companies, citizens and authorities in the EU. This would also send a clear signal to the US about the absolute need to take into account the conflicts of law challenges that these orders pose for the EU and member states' data protection legal systems. The paper also recommends re-designing and strengthening the current EU-US Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue between the European Parliament and its US counterparts to better allow for a closer consultation on relevant US and EU policies with deep repercussions on transatlantic relations and citizens across the board.

Elspeth Guild is Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS. Didier Bigo is Director of the Centre d’Etudes sur les Conflits, Liberté et Sécurité (CCLS) and Professor at Sciences-Po Paris and King’s College London. Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of Justice and Home Affairs Programme, CEPS. This paper was prepared in the context of the SOURCE Network of Excellence, which is financed by the European Union FP7 programme with the aim of creating a robust and sustainable virtual centre of excellence capable of exploring and advancing societal issues in security research and development.