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EU and US on Collision Course Over Data Privacy

Posted on May 21, 2015 by John Lynch

The European Union is collating a new data privacy regime that could change the business landscape in Europe – particularly for US companies.

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After the Snowden disclosures revealed the extent to which American companies collected the personal data of customers, new legislation is being mooted to unite all EU countries with legislation that requires Europeans to explicitly agree to the collection of their information.

These increasingly-stringent data rules will necessitate businesses to improve the way that they process personal information.

US – EU tension

Currently, data privacy laws in Europe depend on the country where users are based. These fluctuations have confused some businesses and led to a range of different legal challenges across the continent. Facebook, for instance, has had to face three separate European cases in recent times.

The new law will act as a standard across the EU and will compel any companies that sell in EU countries to comply with the guidelines.

However, the plans have been criticised by US businesses and The White House. President Obama recently said that the moves are aimed to promote European business interests rather than protect European citizens.

What’s more, Debra Farber, who works for the US regulatory company Truste, says that the proposals will prove problematic for many American businesses.

Alongside the new legislation, EU officials are also mooting ending the ‘safe harbor’ agreement which allows US companies to collect data generated by European customers.

While US technology firms agree in principle with the concept of a single standard for EU data privacy, they disagree with the current proposals. Many are concerned that the tough regulations won’t be reciprocated across the world – particularly in China – which will cause confusion for businesses.

Nevertheless, the EU is optimistic that it can help to usher in new privacy standards across the world. Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, says that the EU has “a chance to be influential round the world” in the same way as it was able to able to establish GSM, the global standard for mobile phone communications. My Buttarelli said that other countries such as Japan are “likely to follow the European approach”.

The expansion of the ‘Right to be forgotten’

Plans are also in place to extend the EU’s controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation. The rule, as it currently, stands allows citizens to demand the removal of personal information from search results. Under the new plans, individuals can demand that organisations delete any personal data they have collected about them.

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