Cross-Border Data Transfer

Cross-border data transfer, also known as international data transfer, refers to the movement of personal data or information from one country or jurisdiction to another. This process involves the transmission or sharing of data across national borders, whether for business purposes, data storage, or any other reason. Cross-border data transfer can involve various forms of data, such as personal information, business data, or other types of digital information.

GDPR and Cross-Border Data Transfer

Key considerations for cross-border data transfers under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) include:

  • Data Protection Adequacy: GDPR requires that personal data transfers to countries outside the EEA must take place in jurisdictions deemed to provide an “adequate” level of data protection. Adequacy decisions are made by the European Commission, which assesses the data protection standards of the destination country.
  • Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs): Organizations may use Standard Contractual Clauses, also known as model clauses, to facilitate cross-border data transfers. These are pre-approved contractual clauses that establish data protection safeguards between the data exporter (in the EEA) and the data importer (outside the EEA).
  • Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs): Multinational organizations can adopt Binding Corporate Rules, which are internal data protection policies and procedures that are legally binding. BCRs enable cross-border transfers within the organization’s entities, provided they meet GDPR requirements.
  • Consent: In some cases, individuals’ explicit consent may be used as a legal basis for cross-border data transfers. However, consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and revocable at any time.
  • Derogations: GDPR allows for specific derogations (exceptions) that permit cross-border transfers without adequate safeguards under certain circumstances. Derogations may apply in cases of necessity, the performance of a contract, vital interests, or legal claims.

Cross-Border Data Transfer Regulations

Cross-border data transfer regulations can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. Some key considerations for cross-border data transfer regulations include:

  • Data Localization Laws: Some countries require that certain types of data be stored and processed within their borders. These data localization laws can impact the ability to transfer data across borders.
  • Data Protection Authorities: Many countries have data protection authorities or agencies responsible for overseeing data protection compliance and regulating cross-border data transfers. These authorities may issue guidance or requirements for data transfers.
  • Sector-Specific Regulations: Certain industries, such as finance or healthcare, may have sector-specific regulations that impact cross-border data transfers. Organizations in these sectors must adhere to both general data protection laws and industry-specific requirements.
  • Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements: Countries may have bilateral or multilateral agreements or treaties that impact cross-border data transfers. These agreements can influence the legal framework for data transfers.
  • Privacy Shield and SCCs: The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (which was invalidated in 2020) and Standard Contractual Clauses are mechanisms that have been used for cross-border data transfers between the EU and the U.S. Businesses should stay informed about any updates or replacements for these mechanisms.

Cross-Border Data Transfer Requirements

To ensure compliance with cross-border data transfer requirements, organizations should consider the following best practices:

  • Data Mapping: Understand the types of data being transferred, its sensitivity, and the purpose of the transfer.
  • Legal Basis: Identify the legal basis for the transfer, such as consent, contractual necessity, or legitimate interests.
  • Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA): Conduct a DPIA to assess the risks associated with the data transfer and implement necessary safeguards.
  • Adequacy Measures: Ensure that the destination country offers an adequate level of data protection or implement appropriate safeguards, such as SCCs or BCRs.
  • Consent Management: If relying on consent, ensure that it is obtained and documented properly.
  • Transparency: Inform individuals about the cross-border transfer in your privacy notices.
  • Security Measures: Implement security measures to protect data during the transfer and at rest.
  • Data Subject Rights: Ensure that individuals can exercise their data subject rights, even after the data has been transferred.

Cross-Border Data Transfer Agreement

A Cross-Border Data Transfer Agreement is a legally binding contract between the data exporter and the data importer that governs the terms and conditions of the data transfer. Key elements of a Cross-Border Data Transfer Agreement may include:

  • Identification of the Parties: Clearly specify the data exporter and data importer.
  • Data Protection Provisions: Outline the data protection obligations of both parties, including the purpose of the data transfer and the security measures to be implemented.
  • Standard Contractual Clauses: If using SCCs, include the relevant clauses in the agreement.
  • Data Subject Rights: Describe how individuals can exercise their data subject rights in connection with the transferred data.
  • Data Retention: Specify how long the data will be retained and the conditions under which it will be deleted.
  • Data Breach Notification: Outline the procedures for notifying each other in the event of a data breach.
  • Dispute Resolution: Define the mechanisms for resolving disputes related to the data transfer agreement.


Organizations that handle cross-border data transfers should carefully assess their data protection obligations, consider legal mechanisms, and implement safeguards to protect individuals’ privacy and ensure regulatory compliance. Understanding the nuances of cross-border data transfer regulations is essential for both businesses and individuals concerned with data privacy and security.