Saturday

13th Apr 2024

EU and US sign law enforcement data pact

  • EU justice commissioner Jourova says the agreement, once implemented, 'will guarantee a high level of protection' (Photo: prameya)

The European Union on Tuesday (9 September) signed a privacy pact with the US, covering data transfers used to fight crime and terrorism.

Four years of talks have led to negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic signing the pact known as the EU-US data protection 'Umbrella agreement'.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The deal follows revelations in 2013 that US spy agency NSA conducted mass and indiscriminate surveillance on EU citizens, was involved in industrial espionage, and spied on heads of state and ministers.

The European commission says the deal, which still needs the EU Parliament and member states' consent as well as the approval of the US Congress, will help restore lost trust.

The pact sets up rules to provide safeguards when personal data such as criminal records, names or addresses are transferred to US law enforcement agencies.

“It will in particular guarantee that all EU citizens have the right to enforce their data protection rights in US courts”, said EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova.

Allowing EU citizens to take judicial action in American courts if their data has been unlawfully or incorrectly used had been one of the stumbling blocks in the deal.

The EU had already given such rights to US citizens but wanted an equivalent for member state citizens.

The terms now in place mean that, for instance, a German can challenge a decision in American courts if placed on a US entry ban ‘black list’.

But issues persist on how US intelligence agencies snoop on the personal data of EU citizens from big American firms.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, said the spy agency used covert programmes to access data from US tech firms such as Facebook.

And Safe Harbour?

A separate 15-year-old data transfer agreement to “ensure an adequate level of [data] protection” whenever the personal data of EU nationals is transferred to firms based in the US is also under review.

Known as Safe Harbor, the pact underpins a multi-billion euro industry dominated by giants like Google and Facebook, but is riddled with problems. The European Parliament last year voted to have it scrapped.

Over 3,000 US companies have signed up to the self-certification scheme but a study in 2013 found that hundreds had lied about belonging to the data protection arrangement.

The US Federal Trade Commission, tasked to enforce it, did little to crack down on the companies.

The European Commission, for its part, issued 13 recommendations to the Americans to improve it. That was almost two years ago.

The Americans are refusing to budge on the pact’s national security exceptions.

But Jourova now says she is confident the work on safe harbor “will soon conclude”.

EU-US data sharing at risk

Future EU-US data sharing risks complications if the EU Court follows the opinion of Yves Bot, its attorney general, issued on Wednesday.

EU Parliament set to sue EU Commission over Hungary funds

The European Parliament will likely take the European Commission to court for unblocking more than €10bn in funds for Hungary last December. A final nod of approval is still needed by European Parliament president, Roberta Metsola.

Opinion

Potential legal avenues to prosecute Navalny's killers

The UN could launch an independent international investigation into Navalny's killing, akin to investigation I conducted on Jamal Khashoggi's assassination, or on Navalny's Novichok poisoning, in my role as special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, writes the secretary-general of Amnesty International.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us