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The Pending EU-U.S. Data Pact Is Great News, Unless You’re British

EU Referendum - Signage And SymbolsEU Referendum - Signage And Symbols

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The business world got rare good news out of Europe this week. It came in the form of a shiny new data pact between the United States and the European Union, and, though the so-called “Privacy Shield” still requires a final sign-off, all indications suggest the plan is a go.

This comes as an enormous relief to U.S. companies like Facebook (FB) and Ford (F), which count millions of Europeans among their customers. In the absence of a deal, these firms faced an ongoing legal muddle over how to handle data that, in the worst-case scenario, could have meant choosing between large fines or pulling out of Europe.

Yes, the deal is not final and will run into legal challenges but, as one lawyer notes, European courts have likely lost their appetite for upending treaties.

So all hail the good news about the data pact—unless, that is, you happen to be British. Its Brexit opens what one columnist calls a possible “data chasm” in which the island nation will be outside the EU’s legal umbrella, and also without a treaty like the one the U.S. is about to complete.

And, The Wall Street Journal notes, the European Union may look askance at the U.K.’s surveillance practices and even use them to justify a new form of data-based trade barrier. Fun times.

It’s too early to predict just how this will play out in the long run—recall the U.K. still needs new leaders for its major political parties—but for now it’s safe to say data regulation is emerging as yet another unexpected consequence of Brexit.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a completely different dispute over access to data underlies an intriguing new lawsuit. It was filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, challenging a 30-year-old anti-hacking law as unconstitutional. The law is popular with prosecutors but, the ACLU claims, it puts academics and others in peril when they access data for legitimate research purposes.

So data issues—deal with them. But first, readers in the United States and Canada, enjoy a safe and happy long weekend.