PublishedJune 5, 2000


Washington, DC- The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) believes that after proceeding on their own to establish rules for consumer privacy, the European Union Parliament should have adopted the “safe harbor” agreement between the EU and the United States. Instead, on July 5, Parliament voted 279-259 to reject the agreement and confirm that the EU does not get it – – i.e.; that the borderless and worldwide nature of the Internet, shouldn’t be subjected to heavy-handed premature regulation.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Union have been in discussion for three years concerning a voluntary set of “Safe Harbor” principles and procedures under which American companies could be allowed to transmit European personal data to the U.S. In general, companies that agree to the Safe Harbor principles of notice, choice, and access must notify consumers of the purpose of data collection; allow consumers the opportunity to opt out of their data being shared with third parties; and provide users with access to their personal information. The directive prohibited transfers of personal data to countries outside the EU that do not provide adequate privacy protection.

The Privacy Directive of the EU’s is an excellent example of the dangers of one governing body rushing forward and legislating unilateral “solutions” that affect the global use of the Internet. The action taken today by the European Parliament in rejecting the safe harbor agreement negotiated by representatives of the Department of Commerce and EU officials has caused two distinct problems. The first and immediate problem is the confusion and uncertainty that U.S. and other non-EU-based companies are facing in light of today’s vote. The second longer-term problem is the EU’s continued reliance on parochial and unilateral actions on the privacy issue in lieu of work on an international consensual approach with all affected interests.

“The confusion created first by the EU’s lone wolf approach and now by the negative vote of the Parliament can do very little to promote Internet usage, investment, and the development of e-commerce initiatives in Europe. Today’s action only adds to the confusion of U.S.-based and other international companies as they try to work through various European interests. We need to recognize that the issue of privacy in the EU is only one part of the larger privacy debate. It should serve as an effective lesson to our own governmental bodies that may attempt to regulate the Internet in the name of privacy without consideration for the impact that these actions will have, here in the United States as well as abroad,” stated Ed Black, CCIA President & CEO.

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