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Why American Tech Companies Are Really Nervous About This Weekend

January 29, 2016, 10:48 PM UTC
Data Center Of T-Systems
BIERE, GERMANY - JULY 01: Server rack at the new data center of T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG on July 01, 2014, in Biere, Germany. T-Systems is the largest German and one of the largest European IT services companies. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
Photograph by Thomas Trutschel—Photothek via Getty Images

The laws governing the Internet might change dramatically this weekend, and there’s nothing big tech can do about it.

Sunday is the deadline by which government officials in the United States and European Union have to come to an agreement on how we share data across the Atlantic.

Last October, the E.U.’s top court ruled that Safe Harbor, the data-transfer framework which allowed American firms to transfer Europeans’ personal data to servers back home, was invalid. According to the Wall Street Journal, the ruling affected 4,500 companies, including Apple (APPL) and Google (GOOG).

Safe Harbor was overruled because “it violates the privacy rights of Europeans by exposing them to allegedly indiscriminate surveillance by the U.S. government,” reports the Journal.

If this weekend’s negotiations fail, tech firms could be forced to keep all data they collect on Europeans in Europe—an expensive arrangement.

However, there is reason to believe that this will not happen. Penny Pritzker, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos last week that the U.S. has a “comprehensive offer” and that the “authority and oversight that has been put in place particularly post-Snowden…very much aligns with the requirements of the [European Court of Justice].”