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EU-US data protection agreement moves closer

A proposed agreement on how personal data should be handled when exchanged between EU and US law enforcement agencies has been endorsed by the EU's Council of Ministers.

The EU-US data protection 'umbrella agreement', provisionally agreed on by EU and US negotiators last autumn, was signed by EU justice commissioner Vera Jourová and Dutch minister Ard van der Steur as well as by US attorney general Loretta Lynch on Thursday.

Last month the European Commission recommended the agreement be signed after the US introduced new laws that give EU citizens the right to enforce data protection rights in US courts. The European Parliament still needs to consent to the agreement before it can be officially concluded.

The umbrella agreement does not of itself provide a lawful authority for the transfer of the data to the US from the EU but would instead apply a range of privacy protections to data that is exchanged between law enforcement agencies in the EU and US. Those safeguards include "provisions on clear limitations on data use, the obligation to seek prior consent before any onward transfer of data, the obligation to define appropriate retention periods, [and] the right to access and rectification", the Council of Ministers said in a statement.

Van der Steur said: "This agreement symbolises the values the United States and the European Union share. It will improve cooperation between US and European law enforcement authorities when combatting serious crime and terrorism. It will advance the full respect for fundamental rights whenever personal data is being transferred between us."

The data protection umbrella agreement is separate from the EU-US Privacy Shield that has been proposed to facilitate the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US by businesses.

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