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US inches closer to privacy agreement with Europe

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The United States and the European Union have finalized negotiations on a privacy agreement on law enforcement information shared between countries. 

The framework would eventually give European citizens the right to legal action in the U.S. court system if the United States unlawfully discloses a European citizen’s personal data that was shared by the EU.

{mosads}It would also set limits on the use and retention of shared information. 

The agreement comes with a large caveat, however, which requires the U.S. Congress to approve a bill that would give European citizens that right to legal redress in the United States under the Privacy Act. 

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who introduced the legislation earlier this year, applauded the agreement Tuesday and urged quick passage of the bill. No final agreement will be signed unless the legislation is approved.   

“I am optimistic that it will not only be brought before Congress, but will be passed with bipartisan support,” he said in a statement. 

The agreement is meant to ease the sharing of law enforcement information during criminal and terrorism investigations. The Computer and Communications Industry Association said the agreement will help restore trust between the United States and European countries.

“U.S. and EU negotiators have done their part, and it now falls to Congress to take the next step towards restoring trust in transatlantic data transfer,” said Bijan Madhani, the group’s privacy counsel. “The Judicial Redress Act provides a needed judicial remedy to citizens of select allies, including EU member states, which would reciprocate rights that U.S. citizens already enjoy in Europe.”

The agreement would make sure personal data — like names, addresses and criminal records — exchanged between countries is only used for criminal law enforcement. It would also set limits on how long that information could be retained. Once information is shared with a country, that country would also be limited in its ability to pass it along to another country. 

Most importantly for European citizens, it would allow them to correct any flawed information, which could inadvertently get a person arrested or denied a visa. It would also open up the U.S. courts to Europeans if their personal data was unlawfully disclosed by the United States. 

U.S. citizens already have that right of redress in European courts. 

During a speech in Greece last year, then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration would work with Congress to get legislation passed, which would allow the agreement to eventually be signed.  

“In a world of globalized crime and terrorism, we can protect our citizens only if we work together internationally, including through sharing law enforcement information with and by E.U. Member States and other close allies,” Holder said at the time. 

Tags Eric Holder European Union Jim Sensenbrenner Privacy

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