The United States and European Union reached a deal Tuesday giving EU citizens the right to sue if their personal information is misused in the U.S.
"Robust cooperation between the EU and U.S. to fight crime and terrorism is crucial to keep Europeans safe," EU Commissioner Vera Jourova said. "But all exchanges of personal data such as criminal records, names or addresses need to be governed by strong data protection rules."
The deal, called the data protection Umbrella Agreement, says data transfers between European and American law enforcement officials can be shared only for the purpose of fighting or investigating crime, including terrorism.
It says if a third party should get its hands on this data for "incompatible purposes," European citizens can sue in a U.S. court. Americans currently have the same legal right.
The agreement also helps clear a path for the EU's plans to collect EU air passenger data. Washington sought such a measure after years of discussion about how to safeguard personal information while combating terrorism and crime.
European and American officials spent four years working on the agreement. A central concern among the Europeans — whose memories of dictatorships' surveillance linger — has been the pressure that the U.S. government exerts on American corporations to hand over personal data, including information on EU citizens, on the ground of national security.
The discussions took on extra urgency in Europe after former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the super-secret U.S. National Security Agency was spying on U.S. citizens and some foreigners as part of the fight against terrorism.
The U.S. Congress must approve the Umbrella Agreement before it takes force.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.