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US to extend data privacy rights to EU citizens

Although negotiations over personal data protection between the US and EU have been going on for several years now, the Obama administration angered many by revealing that only US citizens were protected by law from surveillance after the first Snowden documents were published.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom said at a news conference in Athens: EU-US relations have been strained lately in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, but we have worked very hard to restore trust and there is strong commitment on both sides to work jointly and closely on our common challenges.  

The DPPA seems to be that solution. It will aim to ensure that, with regard to personal information transferred within the scope of the proposed DPPA, EU citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional disclosures of protected information. This would also allow them to refuse access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a US citizen under the Privacy Act.

In a world of globalised crime and terrorism, we can protect our citizens only if we work together internationally, including through sharing law enforcement information with and by EU member states and other close allies,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. At the same time, we must ensure that we continue our long tradition of protecting privacy in the law enforcement context.  This step we are announcing will help advance both goals.

Indeed, I believe we should be able to finish this negotiation soon, since the remaining issues – those regarding the legal framework for the transfer and use of information – have already been addressed in our existing agreements, including our EU/US Mutual Legal Assistance agreement and our bilateral treaties with all of the Member States thereunder. These prior agreements have been proven, through actual experience, to provide a high level of protection both for the safety of all our citizens and for their privacy, and we should incorporate their principles into the DPPA.

Welcoming the announcement as “an important step in the right direction towards rebuilding trust” in EU-US transatlantic relations,” the EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has called on the US to swiftly translate it into legislation so that further steps can be taken in the negotiation.


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