US, EU ink data-sharing agreement on investigations

The United States and European Union have finalized an “umbrella agreement” that would allow the two sides to exchange more data during criminal and terrorism investigations.

The deal, many years in the works, was nearly derailed following the revelations of multiple clandestine U.S. surveillance programs.

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But negotiators were able to get things back on track when the U.S. agreed to include a clause giving EU citizens the right to sue in U.S. courts over misuse of their personal data.

EU officials portrayed the provision as key to ensuring European’s digital privacy as the 28-country collective tries to square its more robust data protection laws with those in the U.S.

“Once in force, this agreement will guarantee a high level of protection of all personal data when transferred between law enforcement authorities across the Atlantic,” said EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová in a statement.

“It will in particular guarantee that all EU citizens have the right to enforce their data protection rights in U.S. courts,” she added.

Although negotiators have agreed to the provision, Congress must first pass a stalled bill to give EU citizens this right.

In June, Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyWrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration Dem on Trump's foreign policy moves: 'That's how wars start' House passes medical cures bill MORE (D-Conn.) introdued the Judicial Redress Act, which would allow EU citizens to sue in U.S. courts over data privacy violations. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchMnuchin's former bank comes under scrutiny Trump’s economic team taking shape Huntsman considering run for Senate in 2018 MORE (R-Utah) is co-sponsoring the bill.

Murphy told reporters Tuesday he is angling to possibly attach the language to CISA or pass it as a standalone bill. The measure is not one of the initial 22 amendments that will get votes when CISA is considered.

"We were hopeful to get it attached to the cybersecurity bill, but I haven’t heard much opposition within the Senate,” he said. “So if we can get it hotlined later this year, we will. Now that we know it’s instrumental to this agreement, I think we’ll have more purchase within both caucuses.”

Rep. Jim SensenbrennerJames SensenbrennerJustice reform is still alive and well after Trump election Pence to campaign with Ryan in Wisconsin GOP rep heckled at Ryan fundraiser MORE (R-Wis.) also has a companion bill in the House. 

U.S. and EU officials have been struggling to rebuild their digital relationship since former government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed secret snooping practices at the National Security Agency (NSA).

EU representatives wanted to cancel a number of data sharing agreements with the U.S., arguing that U.S. data protection laws provided weak security for their citizens.

But negotiators have stayed at the table.

Jourová believes the law enforcement data-sharing pact is “an important step to strengthen the fundamental right to privacy effectively and to rebuild trust in EU-US data flows.”

The two sides are also working to reshape a broader commercial data-sharing agreement, known as the U.S.-EU safe harbor framework, that allows companies to transfer customer data between regions.

“I am also confident that we will be able to soon conclude our work on strengthening the safe harbor arrangement for exchange of data for commercial purposes,” Jourová said.