United States walks data-privacy tightrope during EU talks
(IDG) -- The U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday tried to quell corporate fears in the United States that the government's data-privacy proposal designed to satisfy European regulators could be extended to U.S. citizens domestically.
The government's data-privacy proposal, which includes what are known as "safe harbor" principles, was developed strictly to meet the requirements of the European Union's (EU's) Directive on Data Protection, which prohibits the export of EU citizens' data to countries that do not offer "adequate" privacy protection, Under Secretary of Commerce David Aaron said Monday during an address before the Information Technology Association of America in Washington.
"In no way does the U.S. government intend for these safe harbor principles to be seen as precedents for any future changes in the U.S. privacy regime," Aaron said, according to a transcript of his speech. "Indeed, some of these principles might not be appropriate in a strictly American context."
For example, the EU rejects making consumer information available for marketing purposes, whereas the United States does not, Aaron said.
The Electronic Privacy Information Council, a U.S. privacy oversight group, maintained that Aaron was attempting to assuage U.S. businesses' concerns that strict rules on handling data on EU citizens would be extended to U.S. citizens' data.
America Online, Walt Disney, and other companies have objected to the government's proposed restrictions, according to a story Tuesday in The Washington Post. An AOL representative declined to comment, and Walt Disney officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Aaron is "trying to assure industry about the approach that the government intends to take," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Council.
In fact, the government's approach creates a double standard, whereby the U.S. government protects the privacy of Europeans more than that of Americans, according to Rotenberg.
The government is saying, "We're prepared to reach a deal to provide this protection to European citizens but not to our own," Rotenberg said.
The safe harbor principles are a set of rules that U.S. companies could pledge to adopt that the EU would consider adequate privacy protection. The EU has not yet agreed to the proposal, the voluntary aspect of which runs counter to its preference for legislative fiat in securing data privacy.
The next U.S.-EU summit is June 21, so the two sides must agree by the end of April on the language of the agreement to meet that deadline, Aaron said in his speech.
Rebecca Sykes is a Boston correspondent for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.
Microsoft's GUID sparks fears of privacy invasion
RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Euro-privacy will flummox U.S. business
U.S. Department of Commerce
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.