This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Earlier this month, US and EU negotiators finalized the Privacy Shield agreement, a historic pact that will make it easier for businesses to move digital data across the Atlantic.
So why should Utahns care? Because the agreement will have a significant impact on American businesses, especially technology firms headquartered along Utah's Silicon Slopes.
Many Utah cloud computing companies use data centers in Europe to store highly valuable digital information for their customers. The Privacy Shield benefits these businesses by establishing a legal framework that allows them to quickly retrieve information they store overseas for their clients here in Utah and across the globe.
Without the Privacy Shield and the legal framework it provides, the day-to-day operations of thousands of tech companies that depend on the cloud would come to a grinding halt. American corporations doing business in Europe would be prohibited from transferring their customers' digital information back to the United States, choking off the cross-border data flows that are the lifeblood of cloud computing companies. Consider that, in 2014 alone, the United States exported an estimated $187 billion in digital services and imported $110 billion in digital services from Europe. Our country would be hard hit by this lost revenue. In short, a world without the Privacy Shield would be bleak for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Trade ties would weaken, investment would stall and innovation would suffer.
That's why Utah companies that back up data in the cloud have reason to celebrate the adoption of the Privacy Shield. This agreement ensures that their digital information remains secure and accessible at a moment's notice.
Thousands of people in both the public and private sectors worked countless hours to make the Privacy Shield a reality, but few were more integral to the process than Utah's own Sen. Orrin Hatch. Generating goodwill among European leaders was essential to passing this critical agreement. In this endeavor, Utah's senior senator played an indispensable role. To help earn the trust of our transatlantic partners, Hatch led the legislative battle in Congress to enact the Judicial Redress Act a bill that provided much-needed assurances to European officeholders drafting the final terms of the Privacy Shield agreement. Hatch's proposal ultimately brought stakeholders to the negotiating table; without his legislation, it is unlikely that we would have the Privacy Shield today.
Through his behind-the-scenes work to encourage adoption of the EU-US Privacy Shield, Hatch has secured yet another victory for our state's thriving technology sector. It's no secret that Hatch cares deeply about technology policy and the issues facing Utah's tech ecosystem. Whether he's spearheading legislation to facilitate high-skilled immigration, combat patent trolls, strengthen online privacy protections, or safeguard America's trade secrets, Hatch is always at the vanguard of new and innovative efforts to give our 5,000 tech companies a competitive edge.
There's a reason Orrin Hatch was recently inducted into the Utah Technology Council's Hall of Fame: He has done more than perhaps any elected official to bolster Utah's entrepreneurs and put Silicon Slopes on the map.
Hatch regularly visits Silicon Valley, where he encourages top CEOs to set up shop in Utah. Throughout the last decade, he has invited the world's most prominent tech luminaries to tour the Beehive State and meet with Utah's own business leaders. Recent visitors include Eric Schmidt of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn. This September, Hatch is bringing Apple CEO Tim Cook to address technology leaders in our state.
I know I speak for many in the Silicon Slopes community when I say that we are tremendously fortunate to have an ally in Hatch. He has fought tirelessly for Utah's technology industry, and I am confident that he will continue fighting on our behalf.
Richard R. Nelson is President and CEO at the Utah Technology Council.