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U.S. may extend some privacy rights to Europeans

The U.S. government has said it may extend certain privacy rights to European citizens to help them enjoy the same sort of data protections abroad as they do at home.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday that the White House “would seek to work with Congress to enact legislation” that would let EU citizens seek redress in U.S. courts if their home countries’ authorities share their personal data with U.S. authorities, and if that data is then “intentionally or willfully disclosed.” U.S. citizens already get to do this in the U.S. under the Privacy Act, but people living outside the U.S. cannot.

In a statement welcoming the suggestion, EU justice chief Viviane Reding said this could remove a major stumbling block in data protection negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union. The European Commission, which is currently trying to navigate through the mess exposed by Edward Snowden last year, has long complained about the current state of affairs, particularly as Americans can sue in an E.U. court if they feel their personal data has been abused in Europe.

The potential U.S. move might prove particularly meaningful with regards to passenger name records that are sent to the U.S. — a European who finds themselves on a no-fly list as a result of this data-sharing has no right to redress at present.

Reding said:

“The U.S. administration is now announcing that it will take legislative action to fill the gap between the rights that U.S. citizens enjoy in the EU today and the rights EU citizens do not have in the U.S. – something which the Commission has been arguing for during the past three years. This is an important first step towards rebuilding trust in our transatlantic relations. Now the announcement should be swiftly translated into legislation so that further steps can be taken in the negotiation. Words only matter if put into law. We are waiting for the legislative step.”

This article was updated at 9am PT to include a link to Holder’s statement, and to make clear that this potential U.S. move only applies to data shared by the authorities under the terms of the agreement that’s being worked out, rather than data sent to U.S. web firms.

5 Responses to “U.S. may extend some privacy rights to Europeans”

  1. JenniferDawn

    This is not a good thing. Americans need to stop imposing American laws globally, and granting Constitutional protections to non-American citizens, and to parts of the globe that are not American territory.

    THIS is why terrorists want to crash airplanes into our buildings.

  2. André Rebentisch

    Given the recent BNP Paribas provocation I wonder what is on the mind of US politicians. This is not a concession but a minimum requirement.

  3. Shouldn’t the US extend privacy rights to citizens of all nationalities instead of just Europeans? From what I understand that’s how the policy in EU is, according to this article.

  4. Bill from Lavaboom

    This is not a good thing. Respect for privacy rights is why people are flocking to Europe to start their companies and people are now looking for companies that respect privacy outside the US E.g. Lavaboom, ProtonMail, MailPile, Indiephone, SilentCircle.

    Skype removed it’s encryption when they were sold to an American company.

    Emails become public property in the US after 180 days on a US server.

    The TSA can confiscate computers and phones without permission at US borders.

    Everything about US privacy rights are a genuine farce that don’t do justice to the Human Rights that they’re based on. The US can keep it’s privacy rights, they are not part of the solution if you’re looking to reclaim your privacy.

    -Bill from Lavaboom