Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

EU Privacy Directive

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY
- Privacy
- Fair Info Practices
- 4th Amendment
- - ECPA
- - FISA
- - Patriot Act
- - Expectation
- - Cybersecurity
- - Anonymity
- - ID Theft
- - Spyware
- - Children's Privacy
- - Cookies
- - Social Networks
- - Advertising
- - Online Profiling
- - Privacy Policies
- - Enforcement
- - CPNI
- - Cable
Dept of Commerce
- - NTIA
- - NIST
- - EU Safe Harbors
- The Feds
- - Pri.Protection Act
- - Privacy Act
- - Pri. Impact Statements
- - Info Law
- - The Press
- Geolocation
- - Location Based Services
- Reference

:: Intro :: Safe Harbor :: Reference ::

Different cultures' perspectives on human rights develop in environments of history and culture. US perspectives on rights continues to empower Americans against the ever present risk that King George might come pounding on our doors and force us to become Anglicans or quarter (house) the British Red Coats. European culture, which took the brunt of Nazi oppression against Jews and anyone else not apart of the Supreme Arian race, is far more sensitive to privacy invasion.

This has led to a striking departure on approaches to privacy. Puritan American culture tells us that if you have something to hide, you have done something wrong. Post World War II European culture tells us that if those in power are prying, then they have gone too far, and what they might do with that information is not to be trusted.

This dramatically different approach to privacy was marked in October 1998 by the approval of the European Union Directive on Privacy. This created an affirmative uniform approach to privacy within the European Union. Data transactions with entities outside of the EU whose data handling practices were not "adequate" would not be permitted. The scope of this prohibition is broad and covers most all data transfers except as between two private individuals. As the United States does not possess equivalent federal privacy legislation, this created that risk that commerce between these two bodies, valued at $350 billion in 1999, could be interrupted.

The importance both of the privacy concerns and the risk of interruption of commerce had been elevated by ecommerce. Prior to the dot com era, there was little risk that the corner maple syrup store might offend European privacy sensibilities. However, as corners stores became global commercial enterprises (in other words, as they sent up online websites on which to take orders), US commerce and European concerns collided.

In order to divert a privacy train-wreck, the US Department of Commerce, the European Union, industry and non-governmental organizations met and negotiated a voluntary Safe Harbor to the European Directive. No US company is obligated to comply with the safe harbor. They can opt not to participate and Europeans do not have to do business with them. Or perhaps they can opt to comply with the European Directive in a different manner. But if they opt to voluntarily participate in the safe harbor, they will receive the benefit of recognition by the EU that their privacy practices are adequate and transactions will be permitted (An additional benefit is that claims by Europeans against US companies for violation of policies will be heard within the United States).

:: Intro :: Safe Harbor :: Reference ::

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