EU Commissioner criticises US for the data protection negotiations

By EDRi · January 12, 2011

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Deutsch: [Verhandlungen zum Datenschutz: EU-Kommissarin kritisiert USA |]

Following a meeting she had in December 2010 with US attorney general Eric
Holder and Interior Minister Janet Napolitano, the EU Justice Commissioner
Viviane Reding expressed her concern on what she believed to be a
lack of interest of the US officials regarding the data protection agreement
to be negotiated between EU and US.

“The meeting turned out to be somewhat disappointing on data protection.
From the outset, we have noted an apparent lack of interest on the US side
to talk seriously about data protection,” Ms Reding said in a
statement adding that the US have not appointed a negotiator yet.

The US administration disagreed with Ms. Reding and William Kennard, the
United States ambassador to the European Union, stated that in his opinion
things had moved ahead and that, in order to decide on the negotiator, the
US administration needed to better understand what EU negotiators wanted to
include in the agreement.

The EU-US data-sharing agreement (so-called SWIFT deal) that gives US
authorities access to bank transfer information for anti-terrorism purposes
was rejected by EU legislature in February 2010 pending better data
protection conditions. An agreement became operational in August 2010 when
further protections were added to the SWIFT deal, such as the presence of an
EU supervisor in Washington to check that no abuse occurs.

In the meantime, US authorities continue talks for the existing EU-US
PNR (Passenger Name Record) exchange agreement which obliges airlines to
send details on passengers flying to USA that are to be cross-checked with
the US terrorist watch list.

The scope of the data use is wider than the European Parliament is
comfortable with. EP is asking for a high level of protection of the
transferred personal data (such as PNR data and financial information) and
wants a charter of rights outlining the fundamental principles that should
stand at the basis of future data-sharing, covering also bilateral

According to leaked information, the US authorities have several parallel
bilateral data sharing agreements with European governments.”Member states
do business with the US and don’t tell anyone, not even their own
parliaments. So the things the European Parliament can do on PNR for
instance, are marginal, because if Washington doesn’t get it that way, they
do it bilaterally,” stated MEP Sophie in’t Veld.

The EU wants citizens to get the right to rectify and delete data and to go
to court in case of data misuse and asks for a more proportionate use of the
data by the authorities.

Reding wants to obtain limitations of retained data , a strict
ban on the transfer of data to other countries and asks for an independent
data protection supervisor to be appointed by the US for the supervision of
the authorities’ use of citizen data, as there is in Europe.

Reding slams US over data privacy (21.12.2010)

Reding asks the “Kissinger question” on Data Protection Agreement with US

Viviane Reding takes on US over data privacy rights in anti-terror campaign

US envoy rejects Reding’s charges on data protection (20.12.2010)

EDRi-gram: Data protection authorities call for a strict EU-US privacy
agreement (1.12.2010)