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Obama extends U.S. privacy protection to foreign citizens

By Amy R. Connolly   |   Feb. 25, 2016 at 11:19 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama signed into a law the Judicial Redress Act giving some European citizens recourse in U.S. courts to protect their personal data.

The Judicial Redress Act allows citizens of major U.S. allies, including the European Union, to pursue legal action against some U.S. agencies if their personal information is mishandled during a transatlantic criminal or terror investigation. Under the Redress Act, private European citizens can sue some U.S. agencies for improperly disclosing their personal data.

The law is seen as one of the final steps in reaching the EU-US Data Protection Umbrella Agreement, which provides for the exchange of information, including criminal records, names and addresses, between countries.

The agreement is aimed at "preventing, investigating, detecting or prosecuting criminal offenses, including terrorism," said European Commissioner Vera Jourova.

The law goes hand-in-hand with the Privacy Shield, which safeguards commercial data transfers.

"We take our privacy seriously. And along with our commitment to innovation, that's one of the reasons that global companies and entrepreneurs want to do business here," Obama said in signing the law. "We enforce our privacy laws, unlike a number of other countries."

Entering the Redress Act into law is also one of the final pieces to replace the US-EU Safe Harbor Agreement, a 15-year old privacy agreement that was thrown out by a European court in late 2015. Jourova lauded the new law as a "historic achievement in our efforts to restore trust in transatlantic data flows."

"The entry into force of the Judicial Redress Act will pave the way for the signature of the EU-U.S. Data Protection Umbrella Agreement," she said. "This agreement will guarantee a high level of protection of all personal data, regardless of nationality, when transferred across the Atlantic for law enforcement purposes. It will strengthen privacy, while ensuring legal certainty for transatlantic data exchanges between police and criminal justice authorities."

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