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EU court ruling threatens EU-UK data flows

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A ruling by the EU’s top court Tuesday morning dealt a serious blow to the prospect of digital information being able to flow freely across the Channel after Brexit.

From January 1, the United Kingdom will lose its automatic status as a safe destination for EU data because it falls out of the EU’s legal system. To keep the data taps flowing after Brexit, the U.K.’s data protection regime needs to get a stamp of approval from the European Commission in what is known as an “adequacy decision.”

The chances of that happening slimmed considerably Tuesday when a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union deemed the U.K.’s bulk data collection regime illegal under EU law.

In its decision, the bloc’s highest court said that legislation like Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act — rules that give local national security agencies significant powers to harvest people’s information — fall afoul of the bloc’s fundamental rights.

The ruling poured cold water on U.K. hopes of easily achieving an adequacy decision, which now appears more remote given changing requirements to obtain the EU stamp of approval.

The rulings Tuesday also concern Belgian and French law and will have ramifications across the EU.

In July, the EU’s Luxembourg-based court struck down an adequacy decision it had given to the United States — known as the Privacy Shield — because it deemed U.S. surveillance laws too intrusive for European standards.

That decision also applied to surveillance standards in so-called third-party countries,

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