26th Oct 2016

US lawmakers shun EU model on data privacy

  • Social media and Google searches are collecting troves of private data (Photo: respres)

US lawmakers dealing with data privacy on Thursday (15 September) said their legislation needs to be improved but warned against following the EU model, which in their view has a "sporadic and inconsistent enforcement."

Looking at the 'burden' of EU data privacy laws on US companies, representatives dealing with trade and commerce in the US Congress said that America's legislation needs to be upgraded to better protect against identity theft and security breaches, but that government has a tendency to "overreach".

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Republican congresswoman Mary Bono Mack said EU online privacy laws have "sporadic and inconsistent enforcement, with a seemingly disproportionate number of American companies targeted for compliance violations."

"EU directives at some point crossed paths with Murphy's law. Anything that can possibly go wrong, does," she said.

Democratic congressman G.K. Butterfield said the EU data protection law sounds fine in principle, but it is not applied in the same way across the bloc. "For businesses that have to navigate the laws of these 27 different countries, some regulations can feel pointless, some paperwork and record-keeping burdensome, and some enforcement actions unfair," he said.

On the part of the US government, Nicole Lamb-Hale from the International Trade Administration reassured representatives that the Obama administration is not looking to copy the EU model and its problems with enforcement, but that the US needs to upgrade its privacy laws to give more confidence to other countries when exchanging data.

Smartphone apps for instance are currently not covered by US privacy laws and Congress has to update that, in order to "protect consumers and promote international trade," she said.

Meanwhile, a joint EU-US consumer group has protested against the "tone" of the hearing, putting too much emphasis on the bureaucratic burden and less on the privacy problems that come with increased collection of personal data by various websites and online services.

The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue said it was "somewhat surprised by what appears to be an effort to call into question the purpose and 'burden' of the EU data protection directive" at at time in the US there are "spiralling levels of identity theft and security breaches."

The US discussion is being closely watched by the EU's consumer organisations, as the bloc itself is about to revamp its laws in the area. Legislation in this field dates back to 1995.

“It’s our strong interest as the commission refurbishes the EU regulatory framework on data protection that it doesn’t bow to mere commercial interests. A clear answer needs to be repeated that laws on data and privacy should apply to all companies operating in Europe, but not based here," said John Phelan from Beuc, the umbrella group representing consumer organisations.


Europe ready to tackle Greek debt relief

The Greek government has built and broadened alliances in EU institutions and member-states that acknowledge the need to restructure the debt and deliver another economic model for the eurozone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion