Last week the European Union and the United States signed what has become known as an 'Umbrella Agreement', aimed at extending the judicial redress protections before the US courts to individuals living within the EU. This is intended to put EU citizens on equal footing with US citizens with regard to these judicial redress rights. The agreement, which was originally concluded on September 8th of last year, follows several discussions and will undoubtedly prove to be a very important step in improving the privacy of EU citizens' data.

As stated by Ard van der Steur, Dutch Minister for Security and Justice: "This agreement symbolises the values the United States and the European Union share. It will improve cooperation between US and European law enforcement authorities when combating serious crime and terrorism."

The agreement imposes a number of obligations on both signatory bodies. Amongst these are obligations to make provisions providing clear limitations on data use, obtain prior consent before any onward transfer of data and outline and define appropriate retention periods. Importantly, it also ensures that data cannot be passed on to third countries or organisations without prior consent.

It also includes rights for data subjects to access and rectify their data, and obligations to notify of any breach in relation that data. This, therefore, puts in place a comprehensive high-level data protection framework for criminal law enforcement operations which covers all data of a personal nature exchanged between the police and criminal law enforcement authorities in both territories. In practice it will govern the likes of the exchange of criminal records, names and addresses.

The so-called 'Umbrella Agreement' had been made conditional by the European Commission on the US Congress' passing of the Judicial Redress Act, giving EU citizens the right to challenge how their data is used in US courts. As anticipated, the Act passed in February of this year.

Although it has been signed by US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch (on behalf of the US) and Dutch Minister van der Steur and European Commissioner for Justice, Vĕra Jourová (on behalf of the EU), before it can take effect it must be approved by the European Parliament and adopted by EU member state governments represented in the European Council.