EPIC v. DOJ - Umbrella Agreement
- EPIC Tells Congress US-UK Surveillance Agreement Should be Made Public: EPIC has sent a statement to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on "Data Stored Abroad." According to news reports, the United States and the United Kingdom are drafting a secret agreement for transnational access to personal data that would bypass legal and judicial safeguards. In November 2016, EPIC filed a FOIA Request for the draft US-UK agreement. The Justice Department recently informed EPIC that responsive documents had been located and would be referred to the State Department for additional processing. EPIC has long pursued public release of international agreements. In 2016, EPIC obtained the "Umbrella Agreement," concerning the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US, after a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. (Jun. 14, 2017)
- US Designates Countries Covered Under the Judicial Redress Act: During the final week in office, the Obama Department of Justice released the list of European countries covered under the Judicial Redress Act. The Act gives citizens of these countries limited rights under the US Privacy Act. The Act implements the US-EU "Umbrella Agreement," which is a framework for transferring law enforcement data across the Atlantic. The Act came about in response to the Schrems decision, which held that the United States lacks adequate data protection. EPIC had recommended substantial changes to the Judicial Redress Act, explaining in a letter to Congress that the bill still did not provide adequate protection to permit transborder data flows and fails to provide necessary updates for U.S. citizens. EPIC successfully sued the Justice Department to obtain the full text of the Umbrella Agreement. (Jan. 23, 2017) More top news »
On September 8, 2015, European and US officials announced that they have concluded an agreement, the so-called Umbrella Agreement, which is a framework for transatlantic data transfer between the US and the EU. The proposed goal of the Agreement is to provide data protection safeguards for personal information transferred between the EU and the US. Despite the announcements, neither US officials nor their European counterparts made the text of the Agreement public.
On September 10, 2015 EPIC submitted expedited FOI requests to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the State Department to obtain the secret agreement. Because of legislation pending in Congress and NGO concern about the scope of the data protection safeguards, EPIC said "there is an urgency to inform the public" about the contents of the agreement.
EPIC also filed a Freedom of Information request to DG Justice of the European Commission under EU law. The request was acknowledged by the Commission on September 14, 2015. The Commission has 15 business days to reply to the request. After EPIC’s requests, the document was made public by Statewatch.
On January 25, 2016, the Department of Justice released to EPIC an unredacated copy of the Umbrella Agreement.
EPIC supports the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework to enable transborder data flows. EPIC previously urged that the United States begin the process of ratification of Council of Europe Convention 108.
The federal Privacy Act of 1974 places a duty upon federal agencies that maintain personal information to protect that data. This duty and concomitant responsibilities arise from the collection of personal data. Therefore, it does not matter what the data owner's citizenship or origin is.
- Request to DHS (September 10, 2015)
- Request to State Department (September 10, 2015)
- Request to DOJ (September 10, 2015)
- Request to EU Commission (September 14, 2015)
- EU Commission Acknowledgement (September 14, 2015)
- DHS's Response (September 21, 2015)
- EU Commission's response to extend the agency's time limit (October 5, 2015)
- Administrative Appeal to DHS (October 5, 2015)
- EU Commission's final response to EPIC's FOIA request (October 23, 2015)
- DOJ's Final Response Letter and Full Production of Umbrella Agreement (January 25, 2016)
- Complaint (Nov. 4, 2015)
- Entry of Default Against DOJ (Jan. 6, 2016)
- EPIC's Motion for Default Judgment (Jan. 6, 2016)
- Tran Declaration (Jan. 6, 2016)
- DOJ Motion for Extension of Time (Jan. 21, 2016)
- EPIC Opposition to Motion for Extension (Jan. 22, 2016)
- Joint Motion to Vacate Motion for Default (Jan. 28, 2016)
- EPIC Motion for Attorney's Fees (April 4, 2016)
- DOJ Opposition (April 28, 2016)
- EPIC Reply (May 12, 2016)
- Memorandum Opinion on Fees (Oct. 5, 2016)
- Order (Oct. 5, 2016)
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by Ryan Calo, A. Michael Froomkin,