EU and US Edge Closer To Data Sharing Agreement

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Europe and the US close to data-sharing agreement for security and law enforcement purposes

Negotiations between the European Union and the United States for data-sharing for intelligence and law enforcement purposes are very close to completion.

The new deal regarding the sharing of personal data comes amid heightened European concern at the mass surveillance activities of US intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA).

Data-Sharing Deal

Talks between the EU and US has been ongoing since 2011. But now according to Reuters, which cited three people familiar with the matter, a deal is very close indeed.

The current so-called “umbrella agreement” is designed to protect personal data when it exchanged between police and judicial authorities. It also covers data between companies and law enforcement authorities.

Cloud dataIn the past, one of the sticking points has been the fact that EU citizens who do not reside in the US, cannot use the US court system when they feel their data is being misused by authorised. American citizens already have this right in European courts.

The EU has reportedly repeatedly insisted that until such a “right to judicial redress” is enshrined in law, the agreement cannot be signed. President Obama indicated in June last year that he was prepared to allow European citizens to sue the United States over the misuse of their personal data.

And in March this year, a bill from US Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner called the Judicial Redress Act, was aimed at giving citizens of US allies the right to sue over data privacy in the United States. That bill was seen as a step in the right direction.

“The finishing line is in sight,” Reuters quoted one person familiar with the matter. But the source cautioned that the final adoption of the deal would still require Congress to pass Sensenbrenner’s bill.

Touchy Area

The issue of sharing data between Europe and the US remains a touchy subject for some. In March the ECJ said it was considering the current Safe Harbour data sharing agreement between America and Europe.

Last month an Austrian law graduate Max Schrems began his data privacy lawsuit against Facebook.

That lawsuit alleged Facebook undertakes “illegal” tracking of user data under EU law. This includes Facebook’s monitoring of users when they use the social network’s “like” buttons. Schrems also claimed that Facebook co-operated with the PRISM surveillance programme of the NSA.

Last week, Europe’s official plans to create a ‘Digital Single Market’ included a pledge to tighten up the handling of personal data.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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