How Will Europe’s Data Protection Laws Impact US Business?

The Council of Europe is celebrating Data Protection Day, a conference that marks the anniversary of the 2006 Convention 108 on user privacy. Pundits and law makers have gathered in Brussels today to discuss the most relevant topics concerning consumer data, from regulation on public cloud services to the viability of “smart” surveillance systems and their impact on your privacy.  The full program for the 7th annual Data Protection Day can be found here.

The results of this week’s gathering will have a substantial – and potentially devastating – impact on companies that do business in Europe.  The COE is pushing a proposal that aims to standardize privacy rules across all member states, including a law that would enforce users’ “right to be forgotten.”

“The European Commission proposes a reform of current legislation in order to have common rules for all member states. This would include the right to be forgotten: people would be able to have their personal data deleted if there is no legitimate ground for retaining it. The plans would also introduce fines for losing or divulging customer data. The two legislative proposals are currently being dealt with by Parliament.”

In an October interview, SiliconAngle contributing editor John Casaretto voiced concern about this sort of privacy measures – regulation that attempts to force itself upon the entire web.  His view is that it is simply impossible to effectively enforce these kinds of rules: the COE can’t ask every international eShop and blog to handle user data more responsibly. The new legislature would be of concern to the big fish – Google, Facebook, et al – but these companies are already under tight scrutiny in all continents.

The right to be forgotten may or may not be a bad idea, but this year it’s joined by several others as data privacy becomes an increasingly urgent topic of discussion. The COE will look into US laws that allow the inspection of cloud data belonging to non-American citizens, and will also attempt reform outdated legislature concerning misuse of information by law enforcement agencies.   Europe is leading the charge when it comes to user privacy, for better or worse.

Here to discuss more on Europe’s influence on US business as it pertains to data privacy is Wikibon co-founder Dave Vellante, who appeared on this morning’s NewsDesk program with Kristin Feledy.