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    New York Times: Data Protection Laws, an Ocean Apart

    The New York Times reports on the divide between the United States and the European Union on privacy laws:

    On this side of the Atlantic, Congress has enacted a patchwork quilt of privacy laws that separately limit the use of Americans’ medical records, credit reports, video rental records and so on. On the other side, the European Union has instituted more of a blanket regulatory system; it has a common directive that gives its citizens certain fundamental rights — like the right to obtain copies of records held about them by companies and institutions — that Americans now lack.

    Even so, United States officials maintain that the divergent approaches are equal. […]

    Europe begs to differ. […]

    Alas, the data-control divide appears to be widening.

    A year ago, the European Commission proposed comprehensive reforms to strengthen online privacy rights — changes that could have big repercussions for American technology companies and marketers that operate in the European Union. American officials, trade groups and tech executives have responded by taking frequent treks to Brussels and other cities, where they have urged regulators and legislators to reconsider the one-regulation-fits-all-data approach. What’s at stake, American industry representatives say, is nothing less than a free and commerce-friendly Internet. […]

    European Union members already have data protection laws in place, based on a directive from 1995 that laid out principles for the collection of personal information. The proposed new rules would strengthen some existing provisions. They would standardize data protections across the 27 member states. They would also provide some new rights, such as “data portability” — the right of consumers to easily transfer their text files, photographs and videos from one social network, or e-mail or cloud storage service, to another. And they would subject companies that violate the rules to penalties of up to 2 percent of their annual global revenue. […]

    BUT some provisions seem too rigid to United States officials and trade groups. They argue that the American approach — sector-specific privacy laws, in addition to industry self-regulation and enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission — is more nimble. […]

    From the perspective of some European legislators, however, United States representatives seem more interested in protecting commerce than consumers. The full-court American effort may have backfired, they say, pushing some European officials toward even broader measures.

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