The approaches to privacy regulation taken by Europe and the United States are often seen as being at odds with one another. The European regulatory scheme is characterized as overarching, comprehensive, principled, centrally-controlled, and more protective of citizen’s rights, whereas the US regulatory system is characterized as a patchwork of sector-specific laws and regulations, lacking in unitary concepts, driven by a combination of FTC action and self-regulation by the industries, and less-protective of citizens’ rights. (See, for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/technology/consumer-data-protection-laws-an-ocean-apart.html?_r=1& , which was featured in last week’s PRG blog post).
However, this impression may need to be revisited following closer scrutiny of the drafting process of the EU’s new Data Protection Regulation. As technology news site GigaOm reports, a recent examination of the proposed amendments to the draft Data Protection Regulation conducted by Max Schmers, and Austrian Law student and vocal critic of Facebook, casts light on the extent to which US commercial interests are influencing the drafting process. Schmers’s examination shows how language coming from from lobbyists for US-based commercial giants Amazon and eBay, as well as the American Chamber of Commerce, have been copy-and-pasted directly into the opinion submitted by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection to amend the proposed General Data Protection Regulation. According to the report, these suggested changes water-down the original protections of European citizens’ rights in favor of American business.
So perhaps the guiding hands behind privacy regulation in the US and Europe are not so vastly different after all? If true, this information is a vivid reminder that Europe’s principled approach to privacy does not necessarily translate into tougher privacy safeguards for citizens. It should also serve as a food for thought for advocates of comprehensive privacy legislation in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
Information on the proposed General Data Protection Regulation can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/data-protection/news/130206_en.htm
The proposed amendments by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection can be found at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fNONSGML%2bCOMPARL%2bPE-496.497%2b02%2bDOC%2bPDF%2bV0%2f%2fEN