EU Seeks to Seal Law Enforcement Deal Before Trump

Bloomberg Law: Privacy & Data Security brings you single-source access to the expertise of Bloomberg Law’s privacy and data security editorial team, contributing practitioners,...

By Stephen Gardner

Dec. 1 — The European Union is aiming to finalize a EU-U.S. pact governing privacy and security for law enforcement data transfers before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The European Parliament approved the long awaited trans-Atlantic law enforcement data transfer pact Dec. 1 even though there are uncertainties about whether Trump will more aggressively extend government access to personal data.

Parliament’s approval may be of interest to U.S. companies, particularly ones that transfer large amounts of data such as Alphabet Inc.'s Google. The EU approval despite that uncertainty may demonstrate a broader willingness to engage with the U.S. on corporate data transfers and digital economy aspects of international trade.

The Parliament vote is the penultimate step in the EU ratification process. EU member country ministers must also formally give approval. National signoffs should be completed Dec. 2, Romain Sadet, a spokesman for the Council of the EU, which represents the 28 national governments, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 1.

The U.S. would then be required to adopt and implement the agreement. It is unclear what approach Trump will take towards the deal. The EU’s top data protection official, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, said Dec. 1 that the EU would aim to “conclude our work” on the umbrella agreement “with the current administration in the U.S.”

The agreement was signed by EU and U.S. officials in June, bringing to a close nearly five years of negotiations. EU lawmakers voted 481-75 with 88 abstentions in favor of the pact. As predicted, the approval was a formality after the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) approved the agreement Nov. 24.

Uniform Standard

The umbrella agreement is intended to provide a uniform data protection standard for data transferred from the 28 EU countries to the U.S. Transfers related to law enforcement presently take place on the basis of varying bilateral deals between EU countries and the U.S.

It includes restrictions on data retention and onward transfers of data, and gives rights to data subjects, including the right to access and rectify data, and to go to court in cases of privacy breaches.

The umbrella agreement “does not represent a legal basis for new data transfers, but protects the data that is already exchanged legally,” Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green lawmaker and LIBE vice-chairman, said in a Dec. 1 statement. The agreement should ensure “high, binding standards and strong rights for citizens on both sides of the Atlantic when data is exchanged between police and law enforcement agencies,” Albrecht said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

For More Information

The EU decision approving the EU-U.S. umbrella agreement is available at http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-8523-2016-INIT/en/pdf.

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Bloomberg Law Privacy and Data Security