(CN) – The European Parliament on Thursday signed off on a EU-U.S. data-protection umbrella agreement to safeguard citizens’ personal information during law enforcement investigations.
Under the agreement, all personal data exchanged between the European Union and the United States will be subject to clear harmonized rules on both sides.
Personal data – including names, addresses and criminal records – can only be used for the purpose of preventing, investigating or prosecuting criminal offenses, and may not be processed for any reason beyond these parameters.
Furthermore, neither U.S. nor EU authorities may send the information to a third party without consent of the nation that provided the information in the first place.
Any personal information gathered will be subject to publicly available retention periods which take into account the impact on people’s rights and interests.
And for the first time, EU citizens will have the right to challenge cases in which U.S. authorities deny access to, refuse to rectify errors in, or unlawfully disclose the personal information of citizens – and make their cases in U.S. courts, as U.S. citizens have been able to do in European courts for years.
“More than ever, the EU and the U.S. need to cooperate to fight crime and terrorism and protect citizens from common security challenges. At the same time this cooperation needs to safeguard the European fundamental right to privacy,” the European Commission’s justice commissioner Vera Jourova said in a statement. “The umbrella agreement will ensure that the exchanges of personal data, such as criminal records, names or addresses, are governed by strong data protection rules.”
She added, “It is now important that the U.S. side makes the necessary designations under the Judicial Redress Act, so that the agreement can enter into force as soon as possible.”
The agreement still needs to be formally approved by the EU Council.