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EU-US relations in data protection, AI and security: MEPs conclude visit to US


A delegation of seven MEPs visited Washington and Boston from 23 to 28 February to discuss the state of play on major Civil Liberties Committee topics with US authorities and stakeholders.

Discussions during the Civil Liberties Committee delegation visit focused on possible future legislation on personal data protection at the US federal level, the use of artificial intelligence in law enforcement, the visa waiver programme and counter-terrorism.

The delegation held meetings with representatives of the US Congress and US Administration, i.e. the Department of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission (FTA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). In Washington, MEPs also held meetings with various industry, think-tank and NGO representatives and in Boston with representatives from MIT, Harvard and Cambridge and local authorities as well as start-ups and law firms active in the field of AI.

Data protection and Artificial Intelligence

Civil Liberties Committee Chair and head of the delegation, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), commented on the talks on data protection: “We are pleased that the US Congress is now seriously considering developing federal privacy legislation inspired by the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and we look forward to more progress. Similar legislation on both sides of the Atlantic would better protect the privacy of US and EU citizens, further ease transatlantic data flows and provide legal certainty to all stakeholders.”

The EU-US Privacy Shield deal, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) and the EU-US agreement on sharing electronic evidence currently under negotiation were also high on the delegation’s agenda.

“We have raised our concerns with US authorities regarding the US CLOUD Act, the ongoing negotiations on a new agreement as well as the remaining deficiencies with the EU-US Privacy Shield. More needs to be done to provide the adequate level of data protection for EU citizens”, stressed Mr. López Aguilar.

In relation to the settlement of five billion dollars recently reached between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Facebook following the Cambridge-Analytica leaks and the related non-compliance with the Privacy Shield, MEPs regretted that the EU has not imposed a similar fine on Facebook. They noted that such fines are necessary, but unfortunately not sufficient on their own, to prevent similar incidents reoccurring in the future.

The delegation also took stock of the state of play on the use of AI in the US, especially for law enforcement purposes. MEPs discussed in this context whether legislation is needed to address the possible unintended negative impact of the use of AI on civil liberties and fundamental rights and how this could be done without losing the benefits of AI. MEPs highlighted the need to prioritise legislative work in the field of AI, given the accelerating development of new disruptive AI technologies.

Counter terrorism and visa waivers

At a meeting with the FBI, the delegation welcomed the improved counter-terrorism cooperation between the EU and the US, which benefits both parties.

On the EU-US visa waiver programme, MEPs raised that Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot and Romanian citizens still cannot enter US territory without a visa, while US citizens can travel to all EU countries visa-free. MEPs demanded that all EU citizens should be able to travel visa-free to the US.

Members of the delegation:

Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR (S&D, ES), Head of the delegation
Birgit SIPPEL (S&D DE)
Nicolaus FEST (ID, DE)
Moritz KÖRNER (Renew, DE)
Patrick BREYER (Greens/EFA, DE)

Read the press release here.