Obama Signs U.S. Privacy Act, Extends U.S. Privacy Rights to Europeans

By Rachel Stevenson

President Obama signed the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 (H.R. 1428/S.1600) on Wednesday, extending parts of the U.S. Privacy Act of 1974 to European Union (EU) citizens.  This new law is aimed at demonstrating good faith efforts by the United States to restore the trust of our European after the invalidation of the Safe Harbor Agreement.  Europeans skeptical of the old Safe Harbor regime now have increased data privacy, protection, and security rights in the United States.  

"We take our privacy seriously.” President Obama said at a press conference accompanying the signing.  “And along with our commitment to innovation, that's one of the reasons that global companies and entrepreneurs want to do business here."

Some analysts have expressed concern, however, that the law does not extend all the privacy protections US citizens enjoy to EU counterparts.  Nonetheless, there is wide-spread agreement that the new law provides a pathway to increased data security, improved international law enforcement coordination, and enhanced transatlantic data flow collaboration.

As Ms Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner stated on the signing of this law, “The entry into force of the Judicial Redress Act will pave the way for the signature of the EU-U.S. Data Protection Umbrella Agreement. This agreement will guarantee a high level of protection of all personal data, regardless of nationality, when transferred across the Atlantic for law enforcement purposes. It will strengthen privacy, while ensuring legal certainty for transatlantic data exchanges between police and criminal justice authorities. This is crucial to keep Europeans safe through efficient and robust cooperation between the EU and the U.S. in the fight against crime and terrorism. 

By working to meet EU data standards, the signing of the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 increases the confidence in the US’ commitment to data security and allows for additional assurance as the US-EU work to finalize the new Privacy Shield agreement.  For assistance in understanding how  new U.S. laws, or the Privacy Shield, may affect your company, please contact the author or a Polsinelli Privacy and Data Security team member.