EU-US data protection agreement: Good news or bad?

The EU and US have reached a data protection “Umbrella agreement”.

The spin in the news is “EU citizens will have the right to sue US in case of privacy breaches”. (Link»)

And on the European Commissions web site eurocrats are trying to white wash the agreement. (Link»)

What is the EU-US data protection “Umbrella Agreement”?

The EU-US data protection “Umbrella Agreement” puts in place a comprehensive high-level data protection framework for EU-US law enforcement cooperation. The Agreement covers all personal data (for example names, addresses, criminal records) exchanged between the EU and the U.S. for the purpose of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, including terrorism.

The Umbrella Agreement will provide safeguards and guarantees of lawfulness for data transfers, thereby strengthening fundamental rights, facilitating EU-U.S. law enforcement cooperation and restoring trust.

In particular, EU citizens will benefit from equal treatment: they will have the same judicial redress rights as US citizens in case of privacy breaches. This point was outlined by President Juncker in his political guidelines, when he stated: “The United States must […] guarantee that all EU citizens have the right to enforce data protection rights in U.S. courts, whether or not they reside on U.S. soil. Removing such discrimination will be essential for restoring trust in transatlantic relations”

Given the current, rather lawless, situation this is a step in the right direction.

But in a wider perspective, this might be bad news: It will open the flood gates when it comes to EU transferring sensitive personal data (e.g. concerning air traffic passenger information and European bank transfers) to the US. And this will serve as an argument for the European Commission to ignore the European Parliaments call to repeal the much criticized and abused Terrorist Finance Tracking Program.

So, at the end of the day, this will be a carte blanche to transfer sensitive European personal data to the US. I’m not sure that is a good thing.


Update: The agreement has been leaked. Link 1 » | Link 2 »

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