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Differences in Privacy Laws Between the US and EU

While the US and the EU may enjoy good international relations, there are some notable differences in privacy laws between the two superpowers.  To help you gain a better understanding of the systems, we’ve put together this brief guide covering the key differences between US and EU privacy laws.

All encompassing

One of the major differences between US and EU privacy laws is the overall framework of the two systems.  The EU operates under the Data Protection Directive (DPD) which is an all-encompassing system applied to every European member state. The DPD is adhered to by all market sectors and covers all forms of data, making it an all-inclusive, widely acknowledged framework. In comparison, the US system is nowhere near as inclusive.

On the contrary, Americans abide by a number of different privacy laws covering specific areas and risks. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is used to establish privacy laws regarding health-related data, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act covers financial information privacy while the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is used to regulate the collection of online data relating to children. Furthermore, US states have introduced their own privacy laws, such as the California Online Privacy Protection Act, which stands alongside constitutional nationwide regulations.

Regulatory bodies

While it may be harder to file class action cases in the EU, European citizens are still championed by robust national data protection authorities. The European Commission’s Article 29 Working Party offers citizens a huge amount of regulatory guidance and advice while national bodies such as the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, Dutch Data Protection Authority and the French CNIL work tirelessly to ensure the privacy rights of its citizens are respected. US residents rely heavily on the Federal Trade Commission to enforce data protection rights, a body which enjoys much higher powers of enforcement than its European counterparts.

EU citizens expect more stringent privacy laws

Most Americans will generally admit that due to cultural expectations, EU citizens enjoy a higher level of personal privacy. The EU considers privacy to be a central entitlement, as ruled in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. In the same way that US gun laws spark nationwide controversy, EU privacy rights are considered extremely important by citizens residing across the 28 member states.

Due to the resounding demand for tough privacy laws, it is strongly advised that EU businesses enlist the help of a trusted information assurance specialist. NCC Group operates on a global scale, providing organisations across the world with expert escrow, security testing, verification and domain services. For Dutch businesses wanting to safeguard themselves against any privacy related risks for instance, NCC Netherlands offers complete peace of mind.

A difference in class actions

The fear of class actions is one of the key consequences resulting from differences in US and EU privacy policies. The US works on an opt-out system, which means that all members of a specific court certified group are automatically included in the action bill. As such, a strong litigation culture has emerged in the US which has led to businesses spending increased time and effort drafting privacy policies with transparent disclosures.

In contrast, EU courts only accept opt-in class action cases, making it much harder and more expensive to build a strong case. That said, there have been a number of successful class action cases in the EU, overseen by national bodies such as the Dutch Act on Collective Settlements, also known as the WCAM.

While the US and the EU may adopt different privacy laws, at the end of the day both countries share a universal goal of protecting the privacy rights of their people.

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Umair is a Digital Marketing Consultant. He loves writing about Digital Marketing & Technology. You can check his profile here.

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