The European Commission welcomed the commitment, made by US Attorney General Eric Holder, and said it could help smooth the way for a new "data protection umbrella agreement" to be finalised between the EU and US, or the EU-US 'Data Protection and Privacy Agreement' (DPPA) as it is referred to more formally.
The agreement would, if finalised, create a broad framework for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US for use by US authorities for law enforcement purposes, such as the prevention and detection of crime and terrorism.
"I am happy to announce that, in support of our desire to bring the DPPA negotiations to conclusion, the Obama Administration is committed to seeking legislation that would ensure that, with regard to personal information transferred within the scope of our proposed DPPA Regarding Police and Judicial Cooperation, EU citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional or willful disclosures of protected information, and for refusal to grant access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a US citizen under the Privacy Act," Holder said.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the announcement represented "an important step in the right direction" but that the "words only matter if put into law".
"Legislative action by the US Congress establishing enforceable judicial redress rights for Europeans in the US can open the door to closing the deal on the data protection umbrella agreement," Reding said.
"The US administration is now announcing that it will take legislative action to fill the gap between the rights that US citizens enjoy in the EU today and the rights EU citizens do not have in the US – something which the Commission has been arguing for during the past three years. This is an important first step towards rebuilding trust in our transatlantic relations. Now the announcement should be swiftly translated into legislation so that further steps can be taken in the negotiation. Words only matter if put into law. We are waiting for the legislative step," she said.