German data protection authorities have announced that they will immediately begin investigating data transfers from the EU to the US by companies such as Facebook and Google, and may issue orders for data flows to be halted.
The recent decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave local data protection authorities the power to examine whether data transfers under the Safe Harbour framework breached EU laws. However, it was expected that this would take place only once formal complaints about harm from such transfers had been received from affected members of the public, as in Ireland. Instead, the German data protection authorities have decided to begin investigating on their own initiative, as the German news magazine Der Spiegel reports.
The announcement of the surprise move was made by Hamburg’s commissioner for Data Privacy and Freedom of Information, Johannes Caspar. As Ars reported back in 2013, Caspar has been one of the most active in investigating possible breaches of EU privacy laws by Google. Der Spiegel writes that US companies with headquarters in Hamburg will be among the first to be targeted, including Google and Facebook.