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    NSA Leak Shrouds EU-U.S. Trade, Privacy Discussions

    Jul 24, 2013
    Data protection and privacy were critical issues of discussion during the mid-July trade talks between the European Union and the United States regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement that would redefine digital. Although these are not new issues, they have grown in importance thanks to recent reports regarding the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM project, which, among other things, included bugging EU diplomatic offices in Washington, D.C.

    Data protection and privacy were critical issues of discussion during the mid-July trade talks between the European Union and the United States regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement that would redefine digital. Although these are not new issues, they have grown in importance thanks to recent reports regarding the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM project, which, among other things, included bugging EU diplomatic offices in Washington, D.C.

    The goal of TTIP is to “‘liberalize’ trade between the EU and the United States with a view to remove cross-border regulatory issues, which can bring about extra costs and stifle trade,” reported Politico.  The first round of negotiations focused on online privacy and piracy as negotiators tried to reconcile the technology industry’s “push for digital freedom with European desires for individual protections.”

    Proposed reforms to the EU’s data protection laws center on the central concept of “clear rules for a clear Internet and the choice for the individual to give his data or not,” explained Viviane Reding, European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, in a recent speech. According to ZDNet, she further stressed that data protection rules must apply to any EU citizen data, regardless of whether the company holding that data is based outside the EU; they also should apply to cloud software and platform providers and to metadata.

    The proposed data protection reforms referenced by Reding are the General European Data Protection Regulation, which relates to general data processing by companies, and the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive, which relates to the processing of data by police and judicial authorities. A third is a “bilateral data protection agreement being negotiated between the U.S. government and the EU to try and establish the principle that any transfer of EU citizen data should take place through ‘established legal channels.’" It would likely have the most impact on intelligence-gathering activities, such as PRISM.

    Thanks to the NSA scandal, the Europeans are in a better position to achieve their goals on this issue, which has been one of the most contentious since discussions began in 2010.

    Negotiations on TTIP will continue in October. In the meantime, the EU will continue to work on its data protection reforms.

    Information governance professionals working in multi-national organizations are likely to have their information management practices and policies under increasing scrutiny as a result of such high-profile events. Such scrutiny could also be directed at U.S.-based companies that conduct business in Europe.

    The U.S.-based legislation covering individual privacy protections has been related to specific types of information (e.g., personal health or credit card) or to certain groups of individuals (e.g., students, children). It is too soon to tell whether these events will have a large impact on U.S. companies' views on how to handle individual privacy.

    For those who may wish to increase their understanding of privacy issues and requirements in the United States and other countries, ARMA International offers the online course Privacy and Security in RIM to provide an overview of some of the key issues in privacy protection. In addition, privacy is considered a key component of the new Information Governance Professional certification program offered by ARMA International. Click on the online bookstore’s “Privacy” category in the left-hand navigation panel for additional helpful resources. 

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