House votes to extend privacy rights to Europeans

House votes to extend privacy rights to Europeans
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The House approved a bill Tuesday to extend certain Privacy Act rights to European citizens — a must-pass bill if the United States wants to finalize an agreement with European countries to share law enforcement information.

The Judicial Redress Act, which passed by voice vote, would allow European citizens to file legal action in U.S. courts if the United States unlawfully disclosed their personal information. Technology companies have seen the bill as an important way to improve overseas trust after a series of U.S. surveillance disclosures.

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"We are pleased with the resounding bipartisan support that has been shown for this measure by our colleagues, and urge the Senate to take up this measure as quickly as possible," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Warrantless wiretapping reform legislation circulates on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Va.) said in a statement, along with ranking Democrat John Conyers (Mich.) and Republican Rep. Jim SensenbrennerJames SensenbrennerHouse panel to hold hearing on online sex trafficking next week Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House panel strikes deal on surveillance reforms MORE (Wis.).

The United States and European countries have tentatively agreed to a privacy agreement to allow them to more easily share law enforcement information. But Europeans said no final agreement would be penned until Congress extended the Privacy Act rights to its citizens.

Many countries give those same rights to U.S. citizens. 

The House was also pushed to act as a measure of good faith to European allies, after a top European Union court recently struck down a safe harbor agreement that authorized tech companies to transfer data between nations. 

Surveillance disclosures in recent years and the lack of U.S. privacy protections for European citizens were seen as reasons for the ruling. 

Nearly every major technology trade group released quick statements applauding the House vote and urging the Senate to act. 

"These rights can be a step toward restoring mutual trust between Europe and the United States," the Computer and Communications Industry Association said. 

Technology companies hope the bill will lead to separate negotiations over a new and updated Safe Harbor Agreement, after the European court's decision this month. 

"In light of these and other reforms, we reiterate our call for the expeditious completion of the revised Safe Harbor agreement, so that legal certainty can be restored for the business — both large and small — and the consumers that rely on it," The Internet Association said in a statement.