The EU-US Umbrella Agreement on the protection of personal data exchanged for law enforcement purposes was backed by a broad majority of MEPs on Thursday. The deal will ensure high, binding data protection standards for data exchanged by police and law enforcement authorities across the Atlantic.
The Umbrella Agreement covers the transfer of all personal data, such as names, addresses or criminal records, exchanged between the EU and US for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, including terrorism.
"The outline of transatlantic data protection is becoming clear", said Parliament's lead MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens, DE). "In future there will finally be high, binding standards and strong rights for citizens on both sides of the Atlantic when data are exchanged between police and law enforcement agencies. After six years of negotiations, we are raising data protection with the USA to a new level. Citizens' fundamental rights will be better protected than they are by mere mutual recognition of today's low standards."
"The agreement is not a legal basis for data transfers, but protects those data that are already exchanged legally. Data protection authorities can check compliance at any time", he added.
The deal will ensure that citizens on both sides of the Atlantic will have the right to:
- be informed in the event of data security breaches,
- have inaccurate information corrected and
- judicial redress at court.
It also sets limits on onward transfers of data and retention periods.
Proposals from the ALDE and GUE groups to seek an opinion from the European Court of Justice on the Umbrella Agreement’s compatibility with the EU Treaties were voted down.
By 481 votes to 75, with 88 abstentions, Parliament paved the way for Council to adopt the final decision which would conclude the international agreement.
Following calls from the European Parliament, in 2010 the Council authorised the European Commission to open negotiations on an agreement between the European Union and the US on the protection of personal data when transferred in relation to police and judicial cooperation.
Negotiations began in March 2011, an agreement was reached on 8 September 2015 and, following the adoption of the Judicial Redress Act by US Congress in February 2016 giving EU citizens the right to seek judicial redress in the US, the deal was signed by the EU Commission and US authorities on 2 June 2016.
On 18 July 2016, Council decided to ask Parliament to give its consent to the deal.