Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Privacy: EU-U.S. Joint Statement on Data Protection

SOURCE Delegation of the European Union to the United States

Today's High Level Conference on Privacy and Protection of Personal Data, held simultaneously in Washington, DC and Brussels with the participation of Vice-President Viviane Reding and Secretary John Bryson, represents an important opportunity to deepen our transatlantic dialogue on commercial data privacy issues. The United States and the European Union clearly share a commitment to promoting the rights of individuals to have their personal data protected and to facilitating interoperability of our commercial data privacy regimes.

The European Union and the United States are global leaders in protecting individual freedoms, including privacy, while at the same time fostering innovation and trade that are so critical to the world economy, notably in the present times. Stronger transatlantic cooperation in the field of data protection will enhance consumer trust and promote the continued growth of the global Internet economy and the evolving digital transatlantic common market. This work will also encourage innovation and entrepreneurship and support the jobs and growth agenda as outlined by President Obama and Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso at the November 28, 2011 U.S.-EU Summit.

This is a defining moment for global personal data protection and privacy policy and for achieving further interoperability of our systems on a high level of protection. On January 25, 2012, the European Commission adopted legislative proposals to reform and strengthen the fundamental right to data protection and unify the EU's data protection laws and enforcement rules. On February 23, 2012, the United States released its privacy blueprint, including the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. President Obama emphasized the Administration's commitment to privacy in the U.S., and called for Congress to pass legislation that applies the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to commercial sectors not subject to existing Federal data privacy laws and development of enforceable codes of conduct through multistakeholder processes.

Stakeholders in the U.S. are very interested in the ongoing data protection reform in the European Union – notably in the proposal for a "one-stop-shop" and a consistent regulatory level playing field across all EU Member States. Additionally, as expressed in the Obama Administration's privacy blueprint, the United States is committed to engaging with the European Union and other international partners to increase interoperability in privacy laws and regulations, and to enhance enforcement cooperation. The European Union is following new privacy developments in the United States closely. Both parties are committed to working together and with other international partners to create mutual recognition frameworks that protect privacy. Both parties consider that standards in the area of personal data protection should facilitate the free flow of information, goods and services across borders. Both parties recognize that while regulatory regimes may differ between the U.S. and Europe, the common principles at the heart of both systems, now re-affirmed by the developments in the U.S., provide a basis for advancing their dialog to resolve shared privacy challenges. This mutual interest shows there is added value for the enhanced EU-U.S.-dialogue launched with today's data protection conference.

We hope to also work with international stakeholders towards a global consensus on how to tackle emerging privacy issues.

In line with the objectives of increasing trade and regulatory cooperation outlined by our leaders at the U.S.-EU Summit, the United States and the European Union reaffirm their respective commitments to the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework. This Framework, which has been in place since 2000, is a useful starting point for further interoperability. Since its inception, over 3,000 companies have self-certified to the Framework to demonstrate their commitment to privacy protection and to facilitate transatlantic trade. The European Commission and the Department of Commerce look forward to continued close U.S.-EU collaboration to ensure the continued operation and progressive updates to this Framework. As the EU and the United States continue to work on significant revisions to their respective privacy frameworks over the next several years, the two sides will endeavor to find mechanisms that will foster the free flow of data across the Atlantic. Both parties are committed to work towards solutions based on non-discrimination and mutual recognition when it comes to personal data protection issues which could serve as frameworks for global interoperability that can promote innovation, the free flow of goods and services, and privacy protection around the world. The EU and the United States remain dedicated to the operation of the Safe Harbor Framework - as well as to our continued cooperation with the Commission to address issues as they arise - as a means to allow companies to transfer data from the EU to the United States, and as a tool to promote transatlantic trade and economic growth.

While this conference was convened to discuss commercial data privacy questions and not issues of exchanges of information related to law enforcement, we note that our Presidents announced at the November 2011 Summit that the U.S. and the EU are determined to finalize negotiations on a comprehensive EU-U.S. data privacy and protection agreement that provides a high level of privacy protection for all individuals and thereby facilitates the exchange of data needed to fight crime and terrorism.