US vs. the EU on Privacy

by Jeff Sovern

Last Sunday, the Times published an article, Data Protection Laws, an Ocean Apart, which quoted the Commerce Department's general counsel, Cameron F. Kerry, as saying “The sum of the parts of U.S. privacy protection is equal to or greater than the single whole of Europe.”  This is a remarkable assertion, given how protective Europe is of privacy.  To take only one example, the EU provides that a consumer’s personal data may be used only if the consumer has unambiguously consented.  Ironically, the previous Thursday, the Times had reported that EyeEm, a Facebook app, shares the photos people view with others without clearly disclosing that it will do so (“An App That May Overshare on Facebook,”Jan. 31).  I wonder if Mr. Kerry is eager to have the pictures he has looked at on the web displayed to his Facebook friends without his knowledge or consent.
 The EU obviously prohibits EyeEm's conduct; whether American law prohibits it depends on whether the FTC views it as unfair in violation of the FTC Act, or whether it violates state UDAP statutes, which is not at all clear. 

American privacy rules may appeal to those who want to profit from selling consumers’ personal information, but the EU approach offers consumers far more protection.

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