The European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection went into effect in October of 1998, and prohibits the transfer of personal data to non-European Union countries that do not meet the European Union (EU) “adequacy” standard for privacy protection. While the United States and the EU share the goal of enhancing privacy protection for their citizens, the United States takes a different approach to privacy from that taken by the EU.
In order to bridge these differences in approach and provide a streamlined means for U.S. organizations to comply with the Directive, the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission developed a "Safe Harbor" framework and this website to provide the information an organization would need to evaluate – and then join – the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor program.
The U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner of Switzerland developed a separate "Safe Harbor" framework to bridge the differences between the two countries’ approaches to privacy and provide a streamlined means for U.S. organizations to comply with Swiss data protection law. This website also provides the information an organization would need to evaluate – and then join – the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor program.
Any U.S. organization that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or U.S. air carriers and ticket agents subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation (DoT) may participate in the Safe Harbor. Organizations generally not subject to FTC jurisdiction include certain financial institutions, (such as banks, investment houses, credit unions, and savings & loan institutions), telecommunication common carriers, labor associations, non-profit organizations, agricultural co-operatives, and meat processing facilities. In addition, the FTC’s jurisdiction with regard to insurance activities is limited to certain circumstances. If you are uncertain as to whether your organization falls under the jurisdiction of either the FTC or DoT, as certain exceptions to general ineligibility do exist, be sure to contact those agencies for more information.