By Katie Bo Williams - 01/21/16 10:10 AM EST
Legislation that would allow European citizens to defend their privacy in U.S. court is being delayed in the Senate, potentially putting a wrench in ongoing negotiations over a new data transfer pact with the European Union.
The so-called Judicial Redress Act is being held over from a scheduled vote on Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to panel aides.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in October invalided the 15-year-old legal framework that American companies have used to handle European citizens’ data on the basis that U.S. law doesn’t offer individuals sufficient privacy protections.
Negotiators are currently racing to meet an end-of-January deadline to craft a new framework for the 4,400 companies that had relied on the original agreement to transfer data — from social media to hotel bookings — across the Atlantic.
Although some critics have called the court decision overly political, others see it as an unfortunate result of systemic European distrust of the American approach to privacy.
The Judicial Redress Act has been part of tense negotiations between the two governments as the U.S. struggles to rebuild trust after the surveillance revelations of former defense contractor Edward Snowden.
Following the court’s ruling last year, both of the bill’s sponsors urged swift action on the legislation as a show of good faith.
“In support of the critical, collaborative relationship that the U.S. has with the EU, it is more important than ever that Congress pass the Judicial Redress Act into law so that we can begin to put back together these U.S.-EU data sharing protocols,” Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDem senators call for sanctions on Congo Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill MORE (D-Conn.) said in October.
“Unless the U.S. and EU resolve this matter promptly, the global economy will be deprived of the benefits of data services,” co-sponsor Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTen senators ask FCC to delay box plan An affordable housing solution both parties can get behind Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate MORE (R-Utah) said. “Now more than ever it is critically important that Congress pass the Judicial Redress Act to provide assurances to our European allies that the United States respects data privacy.”
The legislation is also a prerequisite for a law enforcement threat-sharing “umbrella agreement” that U.S. and European Union negotiators agreed to last year. The EU says that if Congress does not pass legislation extending the right to seek legal redress for privacy violations to non-U.S. citizens, the agreement is a no-go.