EU reassured on U.S. privacy directive - source

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross gave no indication of any plans to change U.S. privacy protections underpinning a pact enabling billions of dollars of data flows during a meeting with the EU digital chief, a source said on Friday.

U.S. President Trump’s administration has stoked concerns in Brussels that it may undo some of the privacy protections put in place by the previous administration that were crucial to a transatlantic pact allowing companies to store EU citizens’ data on U.S. servers.

EU Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip met Ross in Washington on Thursday, the first European to meet the new Commerce Secretary since he took office.

Ross confirmed his support for the crucial pillars of the data transfer pact - the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, the source briefed on the meeting said on Friday.

The source said there were no indications from Ross of any plans to change Obama’s privacy directive issued in January 2014.

On Twitter, Ansip said Ross and him had agreed “on the need for robust and predictable #PrivacyShield for safe and secure U.S.-EU data flows.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

The Privacy Shield was agreed in 2016 following more than two years of difficult negotiations over how data transferred by companies to the United States would be protected in line with tough EU data protection.

Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD28) gave foreign citizens some privacy protections from U.S. surveillance activities and was issued after revelations of mass U.S. spying in 2013.

The EU’s top court struck down Privacy Shield’s predecessor in 2015 for allowing U.S. spies unfettered access to EU citizens’ data.

Cross-border data transfers are used in many industries for sharing employee information, when consumer data is shared to complete credit card, travel or e-commerce transactions, or to target advertising based on customer preferences.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova - whose team negotiated the Privacy Shield - will travel to Washington at the end of this month to prepare the annual review of the framework and discuss any concerns. (Additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington)