The Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP) went into effect in July 1993, and important modifications were made in January 2008. The FADP would prohibit the transfer of personal data to countries that do not meet Switzerland’s “adequacy” standard for privacy protection.
The U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Framework provides a streamlined way for U.S. organizations to comply with the FADP. The U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner of Switzerland developed a "safe harbor" framework. The Framework, which was approved by Switzerland in 2009, is an important way for U.S. organizations to avoid experiencing interruptions in their business dealings with Switzerland or facing prosecution by Swiss authorities under Swiss privacy law. Self-certifying to the Framework will ensure that Swiss organizations know that a U.S. organization provides "adequate" privacy protection, as defined by Swiss law.
The Framework provides a number of important benefits to U.S. and Swiss organizations. Benefits for participating U.S. organizations include:
- Organizations participating in the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor program will be deemed adequate and data flows to those organizations will continue;
- Swiss requirements for prior approval of data transfers either will be waived or approval will be automatically granted; and
- Claims brought by Swiss citizens against U.S. organizations will be heard in the United States subject to limited exceptions.
The U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Framework offers a simpler and cheaper means of complying with the adequacy requirements of Swiss law, which should benefit small and medium enterprises.
A Swiss organization can ensure that it is sending information to a U.S. organization participating in the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor program by viewing the public list of Safe Harbor organizations posted on export.gov. The list contains the names of all U.S. organizations that have self-certified to the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Framework. The list is regularly updated, so that it is clear which organizations are assured of Safe Harbor benefits.