EU Safe Forms: Our Solution to the EU Safe Harbor Invalidation

We are proud to have thousands of users in every European country. Until recently, we were part of what was known as the “Safe Harbor” framework, which allowed US companies to store data for their European customers in the US. Unfortunately, a European court recently invalidated the Safe Harbor framework.

This decision put many American companies, and their customers, in a tough spot. Most common solutions included stopping service in Europe, or getting the European users to sign a more legalese, called a “model contract clause.”

There was no way JotForm would stop serving our European customers, but it’s unclear if creating more terms and conditions for our users would be a permanent solution.

We decided to swallow the bitter medicine instead and fix this correctly

The only permanent solution is to do what European governments are asking: Store European user data only in European servers and never transfer it back to the US.

We already have dedicated servers in Germany, both in Nuremberg and Frankfurt. Our setup includes two separate data centers so that we never lose our users’ data. We updated our software with a new option, to transfer all user data to our European servers. Once a European user switches to EU Safe Mode, their form data will only be kept on our European servers.

One great bonus of this setup is that it will be faster. Since the forms and data are now kept in Europe, and our European site is hosted in Europe, both our users and the people responding to their forms will enjoy optimized site performance.

In the coming months, we are planning to have all of our European users switch to the new setup, but during the beta period, switching to our European servers is optional.

What happens when I “Transfer My Data to Europe”?

After confirmation, your form data will be copied to our European servers. Once the transfer is complete and everything is double checked, we will delete your data from our US servers.

Upon completion, you’ll receive a confirmation email from us. Since your data is only available on jotformeu.com, when you log into JotForm, you’ll be redirected there to access your data.

What is Safe Harbor?

Safe Harbor is an agreement between the United States Department of Commerce and the EU made in 2000 to regulate the way US companies export and handle personal data of European citizens.

Why was it invalidated?

The European Court of Justice invalidated the US-EU Safe Harbor framework as a result of a case against Facebook. The court decided the personal privacy and data protection laws were inadequate in the US.

Why is this decision so important?

US companies, such as JotForm, depended on the Safe Harbor framework to transfer and store European data in US servers. After this decision, we are not allowed to transfer or store the data in our US servers.

What is an EU Safe Form?

An EU Safe Form is a form that is served from JotForm’s European servers in Germany. When the form data is submitted it is stored in JotForm’s European servers and the data can only be accessed from JotForm’s European site. The data is never transferred to the US.

Note that a EU Safe Form is only safe if you are a JotForm user in Europe. If you are a US company collecting data in Europe, you are still violating EU privacy laws when you access the data from US. The EU Data Protection Directive allows a data transfer if the data subject unambiguously consents to the transfer. So you must unambiguously state in your form that the data will be transferred to US and get agreement from the user with a terms checkbox or a terms widget.

How can I check if my account is in EU Safe Mode?

On, My Account Settings page, you can check if your account is currently in the EU Safe mode. You should also receive an email confirmation once all of your form data is transferred to our EU servers.

Transfer My Data to EU Now

Aytekin Tank is the Founder and CEO of JotForm. A developer by trade but a storyteller by heart, he writes about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares advice for other startups. He loves to hear from JotForm users. You can reach Aytekin from AytekinTank@JotForm.com

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