EU And U.S. Reach 'Umbrella Agreement' On Data Transfers

Author:Ms Sarah Thompson and Mehboob R. Dossa
Profession:McGuireWoods LLP

The EU and U.S. reached an agreement on Tuesday (9 September) which will enable the two sides to exchange personal data during criminal and terrorism investigations.

The so-called "Umbrella Agreement" comes after four years of negotiations between the EU and U.S. and will protect personal data exchanged between police and judicial authorities in the course of investigations.

Concerns in the EU were raised following revelations in 2013 that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) conducted mass surveillance on EU citizens, was involved in industrial espionage, and spied on heads of state and ministers. The European Commission said this deal will help restore lost trust.

The Umbrella Agreement will allow the transfer of personal data between the EU and the U.S. "for the purpose of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences," providing it is not "processed beyond compatible purposes." It also will put limits on the ability of the U.S., or an EU country, to pass the shared data to a third country.

Importantly, EU citizens will have the same rights as U.S. citizens to enforce their data protection rights before U.S. courts in cases where U.S. authorities deny access or rectification, or unlawfully disclose their personal data. U.S. citizens currently have data protection rights in the EU, so this is seen as a quid pro quo.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová said the agreement will guarantee a "high level of protection" for personal data exchanged between U.S. and EU investigators. "The finalization of the Umbrella Agreement negotiations is therefore an important step to strengthen the fundamental right to privacy effectively and to rebuild trust in EU-U.S. data flows," she said in a statement.

Next steps

In the U.S., the Judicial Redress Bill, granting judicial redress rights to EU citizens, will have to be adopted before the Umbrella Agreement can be signed and formally concluded. Senator Chris Murphy, who is sponsoring the bill which was introduced by Representative Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr., has said that...

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