Justice ministers in the European Union said they approved the start of talks with U.S. officials on privacy protection issues tied to bilateral crime and terrorism prevention activities.
"Protection of personal data is a fundamental right for EU citizens," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. "To guarantee this right, we need to be ambitious in our approach to personal data protection -- both at home and abroad."
The aim of the talks, the European Commission said, was to make sure personal information is protected during overseas transfers of information.
Reding noted that both partners were committed to protecting personal data but there were differences over bilateral exchange agreements, such as passenger name records.
"Today's decision gives us the green light to negotiate a solid and coherent agreement with the United States which balances enforceable rights for individuals with the strong cooperation we need to prevent terrorism and organized crime," Reding added.