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EU, US officials close in on broad privacy accords

Loek Essers | June 4, 2015
After years of thorny negotiations, top EU and U.S. officials say they are close to agreement on two privacy accords that would regulate the transfer of personal data of European citizens to the U.S.

Though officials were upbeat Wednesday about reaching agreement, they said that there is still work to be done.

"On Safe Harbor, with the Department of Commerce, we have achieved solid commitments on the commercial aspects," Jourová said. "However, work still needs to continue as far as national security exemptions are concerned. Discussions will continue, with the aim of achieving a robust revision of the Safe Harbor framework in the near future."

U.S. security officials are reluctant to disclose how they are using the national security exemption, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

 

Meanwhile, the holdup in the Umbrella Agreement, which covers data used by law enforcement officials, is a long-standing demand from the EU for the U.S. to give European citizens the right to take U.S. authorities to court if they find their personal data is misused. Currently, U.S. citizens are allowed to sue EU authorities.

In order to extend these rights to EU citizens, a judicial redress bill was introduced in U.S. Congress in March. Adoption of this bill will allow the deal to be closed, Jourová said.

"I remain committed to finalize the text of the agreement and initial it as soon as possible. We are not yet fully there — but I can tell you — we are not far," she said.

U.S. and EU officials signed a joint statement on Wednesday in which they committed to finish both the Safe Harbor and Umbrella agreements. They also agreed to work closely together on cybercrime issues and increase all aspects of engagement and cooperation with communication service providers to tackle abuse of the Internet by terrorists.

However, separate from the EU-U.S. negotiations, the Safe Harbor agreement has also come under legal fire in the EU in a privacy lawsuit originating in Ireland and related to a complaint against how Facebook processes data. The case is currently before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The court's Advocate General is scheduled to give his opinion on the legality of Safe Harbor deal later this month.

 

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