On 24 February 2016, the European Commissioner, Věra Jourová, announced the signing of the Judicial Redress Act by President Obama. The Act aims to: (i) address the concerns expressed by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) when it overturned the Safe Harbor Agreement last October 2015 regarding the lack of judicial redress by EU citizens in the US and (ii) facilitate data exchange between the US and EU.

The Act purports to give EU citizens the same rights to judicial redress under the US Privacy Act of 1974 that US citizens have, by allowing them to bring civil actions in U.S. courts against US law enforcement agencies which misuse their personal data.

Whilst the Act gives the US Department of Justice authority to determine which US agencies are within its scope, potentially limiting the reach of the Act, it nonetheless represents a welcome step forward by the US government.

The entry into force of the Judicial Redress Act will pave the way for the signature of the EU-U.S. Umbrella Agreement agreed last September 2015. As discussed in a previous blog, this agreement aims to provide a high level of protection of personal data when transferred across the Atlantic for law enforcement purposes.

The signing of the Judicial Redress Act will also enable progress to be made with the ‘EU-U.S. Privacy Shield’ agreement concerning commercial data transfers across the Atlantic, which will replace the invalid Safe Harbor Agreement. Although agreement was reached at a political level by the EU and US on 2 February 2016, the Article 29 Working Party is currently waiting to assess the written documentation pertaining to the Shield, to determine whether it meets the standards mandated by the CJEU in its ruling in Schrems   It has called on the Commission to pass on such documentation by end February 2016.

A copy of the Judicial Redress Act presented to the President for signature is available here.