EU, U.S. Sign Umbrella Law Enforcement Data Pact

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By Stephen Gardner

June 2 — European Union and U.S. officials June 2 signed the umbrella U.S.-EU law enforcement agreement designed to provide safeguards for personal data transferred across the Atlantic in criminal investigations.

The agreement—signed in Amsterdam by EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová and U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch—includes provisions on purpose limitation, information security, data retention, rights for data subjects to access and rectify their data, breach notification and onward transfer of data.

U.S.-EU discussions on the umbrella agreement had long been held up by the lack of redress options for EU citizens in case of privacy violations related to transferred data. President Barack Obama's signing of the Judicial Redress Act in February 2016 was instrumental in allowing the EU to move forward on the deal (14 PVLR 1657, 9/14/15).

The Judicial Redress Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to designate countries whose citizens may file Privacy Act lawsuits for alleged misuse of personal information by the U.S. government (15 PVLR 445, 2/29/16).

The signing of the umbrella agreement isn't the end of the EU approval process. The umbrella agreement must still be given the green light by the European Parliament and adopted by EU member country governments represented in the Council of the EU.

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Deal Concerns

Jan Philipp Albrecht, the German Green lawmaker who was the European Parliament's lead negotiator on the recently finalized EU General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (15 PVLR 791, 4/18/16) said June 2 that “concerns remain about the compatibility” of the umbrella agreement “with the provisions on fundamental rights under EU law.”

The European Parliament shouldn't approve the umbrella agreement until the European Commission has secured “full judicial protection” in the U.S. for EU citizens whose data is transferred to the U.S. under the agreement, Albrecht said.

However, Dutch security and justice minister Ard van der Steur said in a statement that the agreement would “advance the full respect for fundamental rights whenever personal data is being transferred between” the EU and the U.S. The Netherlands presently chairs the Council of the EU.

The agreement would “improve cooperation between U.S. and European law enforcement authorities when combating serious crime and terrorism,” van der Steur said.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel R. Stoller at dstoller@bna.com

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