One week after U.S. and European Union (EU) negotiators completed work on a new “Privacy Shield” framework to govern online data exchanges between the U.S. and Europe, members of the U.S. Senate took steps Tuesday to implement the Privacy Shield by adopting legislation that extends privacy protections to digital content transmitted to the U.S. by EU citizens. Passage of the bill, known as the Judicial Redress Act, is viewed as a key element in the finalization of the Privacy Shield, which replaces the 2000 U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement on trans-Atlantic data flows invalidated last fall by the European Court of Justice. While the Privacy Shield depends on the enactment of U.S. legislation that guarantees the personal privacy and judicial redress rights of EU citizens whose online content is transmitted to the U.S., the pact also remains to be ratified by the EU member states. Although the privacy protections outlined in the Senate legislation mirror those in a parallel bill passed previously by the House, the Senate measure also includes an amendment specifying that passage cannot impede U.S. national security interests. As such, the Senate version of the Judicial Redress Act must be reconciled with the House bill before the legislation is signed into law.
As House Judiciary Committee member James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) proclaimed that Senate passage of the Judicial Redress Act “brings us one step closer toward completing an important agreement between the United States and our European allies,” Information Technology Industry Council President Dean Garfield lauded the Senate’s action as “a signal to our friends and allies of our government’s continued commitment to respecting personal privacy.” Stressing, however, that “Congress’s work is not done,” Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Technology Association (known formerly as the Consumer Electronics Association) urged House lawmakers “to swiftly approve the amended legislation.”