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EU-Israel Data Transfer Adequacy Greenlit Again: NGOs Call For Scrutiny Over Red Flags

Through an open letter, Access Now, EDRi, and nine human rights organisations are calling on the European Commission to scrutinise and reconsider its decision to re-confirm the data transfer adequacy with Israel made on January 15, 2024. Given Israel’s rule of law and human rights track record, its inclusion in the adequacy review list — designed to allow free transfers of personal data with non-EU countries that have essentially equivalent data protection standards — warrants further deliberation.

“When greenlighting the re-confirmation of data transfer adequacy with Israel, the European Commission has disregarded the human rights alarm bells that have been ringing since 2011, when the initial adequacy decision was approved,” said Chiara Manfredini, Policy Associate at Access Now. “The Commission should not have brushed off Israel’s use of surveillance and interception powers, and the accusations of genocide in Gaza.”

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The European Commission’s review raises red flags about the decision, casting doubt on Israel’s compliance with the adequacy criteria. Access Now and partners demand urgent clarification and review on a series of points, including:

  • How the current status of rule of law in Israel, especially the threats to judicial independence and division of powers, ensures an adequate level of data protection;
  • How Israel’s privacy and data protection framework is sufficiently aligned on critical definitions and standards with the General Data Protection Regulation;
  • How Israel’s national security legal framework aligns with EU standards on necessity and proportionality, especially in regards to bulk data powers and surveillance operations;
  • How Israel’s data transfers to the occupied Palestinian territories (oPts) and the Golan Heights — illegally annexed by Israel — aligns with EU rules regarding transfers to territories not deemed adequate under EU law;
  • How stakeholder input to the review decision was collected by the European Commission; and
  • Why the review did not take into consideration the current war Israel is waging on Gaza, recognised to plausibly amount to genocide, particularly in respect to international human rights norms — specific requirement needed to be assessed to issue an adequacy decision.

“Israel’s current war on Gaza and its digital occupation of Palestine cannot be dismissed as a trivial footnote by the European Commission,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy and Advocacy Director at Access Now. “The indiscriminate personal data transfers from and to the oPts has been instrumental for building Israel’s mass surveillance apparatus, including the construction of mass biometric databases of Palestinians and its possible use for AI generated kill lists in Gaza. In no way, Israel can be regarded as a data protection haven, and Access Now urges the Commission to reconsider its decision.”

Access Now, together with EDRi and other human rights organisations, are ready to engage further and are awaiting the European Commission’s clarifications on the points raised in this letter and reconsider the decision.

Read the open letter.

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