This bill would allow foreign citizens in European countries to sue the United States for unlawful disclosure of personal information — under the terms of the Privacy Act — obtained in connection with international law enforcement efforts. Under current law, only U.S. citizens and legal residents can bring claims against the federal government for unauthorized disclosure of their personal information.
The Privacy Act of 1974 established a code of fair information practices that governs the federal government’s collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals. The Act requires federal agencies to notify the public of their “systems of records” on individuals via the Federal Register, prohibits the disclosure of a record about an individual without the written consent of the individual (with some exceptions), and provides individuals with a way to seek access to and changes to their records.
During a markup last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) explained that the intent of the bill is to reestablish the United States’s credibility with the European Union following highly publicized leaks of classified information in recent years.
“As a result, both the federal government and U.S. businesses that operate overseas are facing growing challenges from proposals to limit the international flow of data,” said Goodlatte. “Our allies in Europe, in particular, are concerned that the European public will no longer support law enforcement cooperation with U.S. authorities if we do not enact legislation to restore their public’s trust in U.S. privacy protections.”
U.S. citizens have judicial redress rights in several foreign countries related to the disclosure of personal information, Goodlatte said.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Feb 25, 2016.
(This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the Senate on February 1, 2016. The summary of that version is repeated here.) Judicial Redress Act of 2015
(Sec. 2) This bill authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to designate foreign countries or regional economic integration organizations whose natural citizens may bring civil actions under the Privacy Act of 1974 against certain U.S. government agencies for purposes of accessing, amending, or redressing unlawful disclosures of records transferred from a foreign country to the United States to prevent, investigate, detect, or prosecute criminal offenses.
The citizens of such countries or organizations may bring a civil action against: (1) U.S. agencies that intentionally or willfully violate conditions for disclosing records without the consent of the individual to whom the record pertains; and (2) U.S. agencies designated by DOJ, with the concurrence of the agency, that refuse an individual's request to review or amend his or her records.
DOJ, with the concurrence of the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Homeland Security, may designate countries or organizations whose citizens may pursue such civil remedies if the person's country or organization: (1) has appropriate privacy protections for sharing information with the United States, as provided for in an agreement with the United States or as determined by DOJ; (2) permits the transfer of personal data for commercial purposes between its territory and the United States; and (3) has DOJ-certified data transfer policies that do not impede U.S. national security interests.
A country's designation may be revoked if it: (1) is not complying with a privacy protection agreement, (2) no longer has appropriate privacy protections for sharing information, (3) fails to meet requirements for transfers of personal data for commercial purposes, (4) no longer meets the DOJ's transfer policy certification requirements, or (5) impedes the transfer of information to the United States (for purposes of reporting or preventing unlawful activity) by a private entity or person.
DOJ's designations are exempt from judicial or administrative review.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is granted exclusive jurisdiction over any claim arising under this Act.