Swiss-US Privacy Shield: better protection for data transferred to the USA

Bern, 11.01.2017 - At its meeting on 11.01.2017, the Federal Council took note that a new framework has been established for transferring personal data from Switzerland to companies based in the USA. Switzerland will apply the same conditions as the European Union, which set up a comparable system with the USA last summer.

The new framework replaces the previous Safe Harbor arrangement and improves the protection of personal data. The Swiss-US Privacy Shield is needed for the secure, efficient and rapid transfer of data. The USA does not have legislation on data protection that guarantees an adequate level of protection in terms of Swiss law.

Various improvements have been introduced in comparison with Safe Harbor. Worth mentioning in particular are the stricter application of data protection principles by participant companies on the one hand and the administration and supervision of the framework by the US authorities on the other. Cooperation between the US Department of Commerce and the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner will be intensified. In addition, an arbitration body is being introduced to deal with claims that remain unresolved through other available remedies. Lastly, people living in Switzerland will be able to address enquiries relating to the processing of their data by US intelligence services to an ombudsperson in the US State Department.

American companies that process data can obtain certification under the Swiss-US Privacy Shield regime and thereby make themselves subject to its rules. Switzerland will recognise these companies as having adequate data protection standards. Swiss companies will thus be able in most cases to transmit personal data to certified business partners in the USA again without requiring additional contractual guarantees. The head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, will confirm this in a letter to US Secretary of Commerce Penny S. Pritzker.

The new regulatory system corresponds to the solution adopted by the USA and the 31 states of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). The fact that the two frameworks are similar is highly significant, as it guarantees the same general conditions for persons and businesses in Switzerland and the EU/EEA area in relation to trans-Atlantic data flows.

Address for enquiries

Fabian Maienfisch, Deputy Head of Communications, SECO
Tel. +41 (58) 462 40 20,


The Federal Council

Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research