Data protection umbrella agreement talks continue
By Brian Beary in Washington | Tuesday 22 November 2011
Talks between the EU and the US on an agreement laying down data protection rules for when their transatlantic law enforcement agencies share personal data took a small step forward at the 21 November EU-US justice and home affairs ministerial in Washington. In a statement issued afterward, US Attorney-General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano “highlighted the US’ continued commitment and efforts to work with EU counterparts towards an umbrella agreement”. Holder, who leads the talks, said data privacy was “as much valued in the US as it is in the EU, and that it was crucial that critical cooperation between law enforcement officers in Europe and the US not be impeded”. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has been pushing Holder on the accord since talks were launched in December 2010 (see separate interview with Commissioner Reding).
Elsewhere, Napolitano underscored the “significant progress” the EU and the US had made by initialling a new passenger name record (PNR) agreement, on 17 November, requiring airlines to forward passengers’ personal data to US authorities. The accord still needs to be approved by the European Parliament. Congressional approval is not required. Unlike the umbrella accord, which is new, the PNR deal updates a 2007 agreement that MEPs had threatened to vote down unless data protection provisions were strengthened. Also discussed were cooperation in fighting cyber crime and child pornography, sharing intelligence on improvised explosive devices, and air cargo and supply chain security. The EU was represented by Commissioner Reding, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, the Polish deputy justice and interior ministers and the Danish justice minister.