Holder: US working to give Europeans privacy protections

The Obama administration is working to allow European citizens to sue if their data is mishandled by U.S. authorities.

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Speaking in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the administration is going to push Congress to pass a bill that gives European Union (EU) citizens rights over their data similar to the rights held by U.S. citizens.

“EU citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional or willful disclosures of protected information, and for refusal to grant access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a U.S. citizen under the Privacy Act,” Holder said.

The announcement comes as European lawmakers debate changes to keep European data away from U.S. intelligence agencies, citing concerns that EU citizens have no way to seek legal redress if their data is mishandled by U.S. agencies.

Revelations over the past year about U.S. surveillance have sparked some in Europe to call for legal changes that would keep Europeans’ data out of American companies servers, prompting calls for reform from U.S. tech companies.

The U.S. is currently negotiating a Data Protection and Privacy Agreement (DPPA) with the EU, which would allow the participating countries to share information, including data about citizens, for law enforcement purposes.

The Obama administration’s push to establish parity between the legal rights of U.S. and EU citizens “which has long been sought by the EU — reflects our resolve to move forward not only on the DPPA itself, but on strengthening transatlantic ties,” Holder said.

He pointed to privacy protections in previous transatlantic agreements and called for those principles to be included in the new agreement.

“These prior agreements have been proven, through actual experience, to provide a high level of protection both for the safety of all our citizens and for their privacy,” he said.