I feel as though this topic has been thoroughly covered by others here, but I was also assigned the topic so bare with me as I provide yet another explanation of why there are big differences in privacy between the United States and Europe. I’m also throwing in China and other potential global economic powers in the mix.
If you think about the political mentalities in both Europe and the United States, there is a definite difference. As is common in political rhetoric these days, American culture is generally more accepting of the idea that companies can regulate themselves and be responsible. Not so in Europe. This article published recently in the Economist provides ample explanation and context for the issue at hand. A big part of the difference, says the author, is history.
A Eurobarometer poll last year found that 62% of Europeans do not trust internet companies to protect their personal information. A big reason is history. In the 1930s Dutch officials compiled an impressive national registry. This later enabled the Nazis to identify 73% of Dutch Jews, compared with just 25% in less efficient France, notes Viktor Mayer-Schönberger of Oxford University in his book “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age”.
Even though the United States is proposing new privacy legislation in regards to the data, the political climate, especially given that it’s an election year, make the chances of the bill passing very slim. All the while, incompatibility between the E.U. and U.S. laws could hinder company’s abilities for interoperability.
Right now, there are obvious differences in the laws.
The ability to provide data protection laws and encourage interoperability may well be the basis of innovations of the future and without ample laws, that innovation could be hindered. On the other hand, just talking about privacy laws in the U.S. and the E.U. is a moot point if one does not consider the other major players in the global economy, writes the author of the economist piece.
America and Europe will set the global standards. But other countries’ privacy rules matter too. China and India will soon have more people online than Europe and America have citizens. Neither Asian country has yet passed formal national legislation, but both are considering it—with every indication that their new laws will outdo even Europe in their severity.
This week I had the pleasure of viewing this video and then the sequel. Talk about a world of innovative technology! It made me wonder what environment would better encourage innovation while also protecting consumer data at a reasonable data. I still haven’t made up my mind as to whether the EU policy goes too far, but one things for sure, some greater amount of consumer data protection legislation or company policies regarding consumer data protection are needed in the United States if this is what our future will look like. There’s just too much sensitive data out there–on everything from major health scans and test results and credit card history information to menial data such as a lifetime of Facebook data–that could lead to systematic discrimination.