Senate Judiciary delays data privacy bill

Senate Judiciary delays data privacy bill
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The Senate Judiciary Committee has pushed consideration of a privacy rights bill that is pivotal to a pair of information-sharing agreements between the United States and the European Union.  

The legislation would give European citizens the right to take legal action in the U.S. if their personal information is misused.

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Its passage is a prerequisite to an “umbrella agreement” inked this fall that allows the two governments to exchange more information during terrorist and criminal investigations.

Its supporters also suggest that the legislation could have a positive impact on negotiations over a new commercial data transfer agreement between the U.S. and the EU.

The bill will be held over until the next business meeting of the committee, likely after Jan. 1, according to a staff member.

Introduced by Sens. Chris MurphyChris MurphyHoyer not insisting on ObamaCare subsidies in spending bill A Vandenberg movement in Congress US to step up support for Saudis, says Pentagon chief MORE (D-Conn.) and Orrin HatchOrrin HatchCongress nears deal on help for miners GOP, Trump administration huddle on tax reform Overnight Finance: Dems want ObamaCare subsidies for extra military spending | Trade battle: Woe, Canada? | Congress nears deal to help miners | WH preps to release tax plan MORE (R-Utah), the legislation is not seen as controversial.

In October, the European high court struck down the so-called Safe Harbor pact, used by companies to make legal cross-Atlantic data transfers. The court said that because of American surveillance practices, U.S. companies here could not be certain to adequately protect European citizens’ personal privacy.

The court opinion specifically pointed to the lack of legal redress for European citizens whose information is misused in the U.S.

The clock is ticking for negotiators to update the agreement. Europe’s data protection authorities have said they will begin taking enforcement action in January against the 4,400 companies that had relied on the original Safe Harbor pact.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association on Wednesday urged the Senate to take swift action on the Judicial Redress Act, citing a need to rebuild the trust that was lost when whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of U.S. spying on allies.

The news was particularly damaging in Europe, where privacy is considered a fundamental right under the EU Charter.

“While it is worth noting the economic loss to both American and European companies if these agreements are not finalized, senators should look at the underlying principle involving key U.S. allies,” association CEO Ed Black said in a statement. “Americans already have these rights in the EU and reciprocating with similar rules is both fair and necessary to restore trust.”