Peter Swire, Alston & Bird Senior Counsel and Huang Professor of Law and Ethics at the Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller College of Business, will debate privacy activist Max Schrems on January 26, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium. The event, sponsored by the Brussels Privacy Hub at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, will take place at the Belgium Permanent Representative to the EU and is a pre-conference launch event to the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection 2016 conference taking place in Brussels on January 27-29. (Peter Swire will also participate in two sessions at the conference: “Making Sense of the Right to Data Portability” and “Mutual Legal Assistance.”) Registration is free but space is limited and must be reserved in advance.
The debate will highlight key differences between certain European and U.S. attitudes towards U.S. surveillance law. Schrems was the plaintiff in Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner, in which European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Safe Harbor framework for the transfer of personally identifiable information from the European Economic Area to the United States is invalid. (See here for Alston & Bird’s updated FAQs on the ruling.)
Since the ECJ ruled on Schrems, Swire has challenged the factual basis underpinning the decision in the case, arguing that the Advocate General’s (AG’s) opinion preceding the ultimate decision “suffers from particular inaccuracies concerning the law and practice of U.S. foreign intelligence law.” More recently, Swire authored a white paper through the Future of Privacy Forum in which, among other things, he demonstrates the “fundamental equivalence of the United States and EU member States as constitutional democracies under the rule of law.” He also highlights the “numerous changes put in place since 2013” in U.S. surveillance law that the ECJ failed to address in its decision, “which together constitute the biggest set of pro-privacy actions in US surveillance law since creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978.”
The debate between these two prominent figures in the world of privacy is sure to be exciting and will likely be widely viewed by policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic. Alston & Bird will provide a summary of the debate following the event.