Privacy Group Wants Info|on U.S. Data-Sharing Deal

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The United States is stonewalling access to its landmark data-sharing deal with the European Union, privacy advocates claim in a federal complaint.
     The Electronic Privacy Information Center says in the complaint filed Wednesday that it submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request on Sept. 10 seeking the text of the so-called Umbrella Agreement with the United States that the European Union announced days earlier.
     EPIC, as the group is more commonly known, says it also sent similar requests to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. The European Commission styled the deal as “data-protection” standards protecting citizens when their personal information is transferred between cooperating law-enforcement agencies on either side of the Altantic.
     Noting that Congress has introduced legislation to comply with provisions in the Umbrella Agreement, EPIC says no federal agency has made the agreement public.
     The Judicial Redress Act of 2015, which purportedly enacts the provisions of the Umbrella Agreement, passed the house in October and was introduced into the Senate on Oct. 21, according to the complaint. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
     The committee has not held a hearing on the legislation, however, and no sponsor of the bill has released the text of the agreement that reportedly spurred the legislation.
     “The stated aim of the negotiators is to ensure the privacy protections and redress rights afforded to U.S. persons under the Privacy Act of 1974 are available to non-U.S. persons,” the Electronic Privacy Center argues in the complaint. “However, the text of the Judicial Redress Act does not support this conclusion. The public release of the text of the agreement is therefore critical to determine the reason for the legislation.”
     Though the Department of Justice confirmed receipt of the request on Oct. 8, te agency claimed to be facing “‘unusual circumstances’ in processing the request,” according to the complaint.
     EPIC says its request for expedited processing was denied, but fee-waiver request has been ignored.
     While EPIC appeals for expedited processing, it continues to wait on news of how the rest of its demand is progressing.
     The organization’s request has been pending for 42 days without the department taking any action, more than the time allotted under the law, EPIC says.
     EPIC could not be reached for comment on this story, and the Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.
     The lawsuit comes nearly one month to the day that the EU’s high court gutted a similar data-sharing pact with the United States.
     Though the European Commission had found that U.S. data protection is adequate, the European Court of Justice said that the government-spying scandal brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden proved otherwise.
     Two weeks ahead of that decision, an adviser to the court in Luxembourg chastised the commission in a blistering advisory opinion for blindly accepting that the “safe harbor” policy – a scheme between the United States and Europe in which businesses voluntarily promise to protect consumers’ personal data – offers an adequate level of protection for EU citizens’ data.

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