US-UK privacy debate rages on



David Bicknell

The year-long data privacy row between the US and Europe is hotting up.

The row is over the planned compromise between...



David Bicknell

The year-long data privacy row between the US and Europe is hotting up.

The row is over the planned compromise between strict European laws on privacy and the US approach, which is based on self-regulation.

The US administration is said to be unhappy that the "safe harbour" compromise it offered has been largely rejected by Europe, on the grounds that it does not have "teeth".

US business is now so fed up at Europe's "intransigence" in securing its citizens' data rights that it is targeting individual national data commissioners in a bid to get individual concessions over employees' data.

Under the guise of discussions with commissioners over complying with national laws, lawyers from large US corporations are said to be lobbying hard for change.

With implementation of the UK's own data protection legislation from 1 March less than six weeks away, Brussels insiders say Europe's data commissioners, including the UK's data protection registrar Elizabeth France, are sticking together.

The need to comply with the European data directive on which individual national laws are based is already estimated to have cost multinational businesses about $1m (£600,000), covering data audit costs, implementation costs and training.

Under the current arrangement European employees working for US corporations can veto the export of their data to the US. This would cover information for human resources, or even payroll purposes.

Under European laws, employees are completely within their rights to reject giving their authorisation, leaving US companies little option but to implement new systems.

The row has led to action by the influential ICX user group to develop a code of conduct for privacy, giving IT directors and senior executives information on how to ensure they are not caught out by the data laws.

Only last week, the US Federal Trade Commission set up a 40-strong privacy panel, but none of the members of the group are drawn from organisations outside the US.

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