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EU official dissatisfied with American response to data protection concerns

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding has attacked American 'lack of interest' in data protection. She wants a much clearer outline of citizen rights with respect to how their data is used.

Vivane Reding

Viviane Reding is very unhappy with the US

European Union justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, has slammed the American government for not showing a serious interest in data protection rights.

The United States and EU are at odds over Washington's drive for increased access to European citizens' bank and flight records. European authorities don't believe that their US counterparts are adequately protecting consumer rights.

"From the outset, we have noted an apparent lack of interest on the US side to talk seriously about data protection," Reding said in a statement released on Monday, just two weeks after holding talks with high-level American officials, including with US attorney general Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security.

In the same statement, Reding described those officials as "unprepared" and "uninterested" in data privacy issues.

"They have not even appointed a negotiator," she added in the statement, but noted that she "expects" the telephone number of the negotiator before year's end.

Meanwhile, the European Union has designated Françoise Le Bail, the director general of the Commission's department for justice, as its negotiator.

EU pressure

American Ambassador to the EU, William E. Kennard

American Ambassador to the EU, William E. Kennard disagrees with Reding's charges

Brussels is pushing Washington for a document that would clearly outline the basis of future data-sharing agreements.

Earlier this month, the EU's 27 justice ministers gave the bloc's executive the green light to negotiate a "personal data protection agreement" with Washington. The agreement would aim to prevent the abuse of Europeans' privacy as authorities share information in the struggle against terrorism and other crimes.

The EU is seeking "more proportionate" use of this data as well as the right for EU citizens to modify and delete information and take the government to court over abuses of their data.

Reding also is encouraging the Americans to create an independent data protection supervisory position, which exists in all EU member states.

In a press conference in Brussels on Monday, the American ambassador to the European Union dismissed Reding's statement.

"I disagree - we're moving ahead," he said.

Author: Cyrus Farivar (AFP)
Editor: Nathan Witkop

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