Judicial Redress Act heads for senate, making new Safe Harbor agreement more likely

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that will give foreigners the same rights to judicial redress as U.S. citizens if law enforcers violate their data privacy

The U.S. House of Representatives has waved through a bill that could grant foreigners the same rights to judicial redress as U.S. citizens have if law enforcers violate their privacy.

U.S. tech companies operating in the European Union have a particular interest in the bill, as it could help usher in a replacement for the Safe Harbor agreement. That agreement, allowing them to transfer personal data from the European Union to the U.S. for processing in compliance with strict EU privacy laws, was torn up earlier this month by the Court of Justice of the EU.

The Software and Information Industry Association, of which Apple, Facebook and Google are members, welcomed representatives approval of the bill.

“The Judicial Redress Act will help restore public confidence in transatlantic data flows, which are vital for the continued economic growth of the U.S. The Act should smooth the waters for a new agreement between the EU and the U.S. on a Safe Harbor Framework for data flows," said SIIA Senior Vice President for Public Policy Mark MacCarthy.

EU privacy laws require that, when the private personal information of EU citizens is processed outside the EU, it benefit from the same level of legal protection as at home. That includes the right not to be spied on by police or intelligence services without just cause, and the right to judicial redress if this should happen.

The absence of adequate rights to judicial redress was one of the reasons the CJEU gave for invalidating the 15-year-old Safe Harbor agreement on Oct. 6.

The Judicial Redress Act, if it becomes law, will extend the same rights to judicial redress that U.S. citizens enjoy to citizens of designated countries if their personal information is mishandled by U.S. federal agencies that received it from foreign governments or companies for the purposes of preventing, investigating, detecting, or prosecuting criminal offenses.

"The sudden termination of the Safe Harbor framework strikes a blow to U.S. businesses by complicating commercial data flows. If we fail to pass the Judicial Redress Act, we risk similar disruption to the sharing of law enforcement information," said U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner. The congressman was one of the sponsors of the bill.

Now that the House of Representatives has given its assent, the bill moves on to the Senate for approval.

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Peter Sayer

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