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Privacy regulators: US and EU will take different approaches

Grant Gross | March 20, 2012
The development of online privacy protections is at a critical moment as policy makers in both the U.S. and European Union push for changes to their privacy rules, but coordination of enforcement across the Atlantic Ocean may be tricky, several privacy experts said Monday.

As the E.U. pushes for a single privacy law, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has called for privacy codes of conduct to be developed at the Department of Commerce with input from companies, privacy advocates and other groups.

Privacy protection is at a "pivotal moment" as both processes move forward and as the FTC continues to look at privacy protections, said Julie Brill, a commissioner at the FTC. While the details may differ in the U.S. and E.U. approaches, both governments are working toward a baseline set of privacy goals, including more transparency for consumers about how their data is used and more access to their data held by companies, she said.

Privacy enforcement agencies from the U.S., the E.U. and other countries are needed to provide adequate protections for consumers, Brill added.

Nemitz, and privacy advocate Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, both questioned the Obama administration's so-called multistakeholder approach of allowing companies to help write privacy codes of conduct. Even with privacy advocates in the room, Internet companies could get their way because of vastly superior resources, Chester said.

A multistakeholder approach does not "carry the legitimacy" of privacy rules made by elected legislators, Nemitz added.

 

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