Greetings from Brussels!
Following four years of negotiations, it would appear that EU and U.S. authorities have put ink to paper on an umbrella agreement on law enforcement-related transatlantic data protection this week. The agreement covers personal data exchange, such as criminal records and addresses that are transferred between EU and U.S. law enforcement and judicial agencies. Though not on the level of the long-awaited updated Safe Harbor deal, which covers corporate data transfers, this looks to be a crucial development after Edward Snowden’s 2013 intelligence revelations.
In a statement, Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová described it as “an important step to strengthen the fundamental right to privacy in Europe in practice and to rebuild trust in EU-U.S. data flows.” Key to it coming into force is the U.S. Congress passing legislation giving Europeans the right to sue U.S. agencies that misuse their data. Should Congress give it the "thumbs up,” which is no certainty in the politically polarized U.S., the umbrella agreement will place restrictions on how data can be used, how long it can be held and where it can be transferred. A mechanism in the agreement would also cover the notification of security breaches.
It has been suggested that member state governments and the European Parliament will only be consulted by the European Commission for their consent once the U.S. Congress gives Europeans the same access to judicial redress that Americans enjoy in Europe; this has been the key stumbling block in the ongoing negotiations. The European Parliament in particular has been very vocal that a state of reciprocity be conditional to cooperation. It sounds like the ball is very much with the Americans at the moment; the outcome could herald a significant “rapprochement" between the regions.
MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who needs no introduction in privacy circles and played a key role in handling this deal from Parliament’s point of view, told Politico EU, “This is a very major step forward to transatlantic common standards for the protection of civil liberties in a digitalized world.”
The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), one of the biggest lobbying groups for the U.S. tech industry, also welcomed the news. “We repeat our call on the U.S. Congress to pass the Judicial Redress Act,” said CCIA Europe Director Christian Borggreen.
There can be no doubt that an agreement of this nature will go a very long way in enabling cooperation on numerous fronts between the EU and the U.S. I can only think that facilitating this relationship benefits citizens and consumers on both sides of the pond.
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