Privacy group, Center for Digital Democracy, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, naming thirty U.S. data brokers and data management firms as violators of the  EU Safe Harbor framework –  a set of standards for protecting the privacy of EU residents.

“All of the companies, we believe, fall far short of the commitments they have made under the Safe Harbor,” a summary of the filing says.

“The U.S. is failing to keep its privacy promise to Europe,” CDD’s executive director Jeff Chester said in a statement criticising both FTC and the U.S. Department of Commerce, which helped in developing the Safe Harbor framework. “Instead of actually ensuring that the U.S. lives up to its commitment to ensure American companies provide EU consumers, our investigation found that there is little oversight and enforcement by the FTC.”

The filing outlines that the companies are using Safe Harbor as a “shield” to carry out their data-gathering practices without scrutiny. “Our investigation found that many of the companies are involved with a web of powerful multiple data broker partners who, unknown to the EU public, pool their data on them so they can be profiled and targeted online,” he added.

Neither agency “has put enough pressure on these companies to assure compliance,” said Hudson Kingston, the CDD’s legal director.

The political altercation after the Guardian/Snowden revelations led members of the European Parliament to pass a bill requesting the immediate suspension of the Safe Harbor system. Presently the European Commission is reviewing the Safe Harbor framework after questions from European lawmakers about whether it is strong enough.

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(Image Credit: Rock Cohen)

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