What Is the Future of E.U., U.S. Data Privacy Reform?

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on December 13, 2012

The future of United States privacy policy and the overhaul of the European Data Protection Directive were the basis for a recent @Microsoft Conversations on Privacy Data Protection panel at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center.

Moderator Justin Brookman from the Center for Democracy and Technology kicked off the conversation with the following panel of privacy experts:

The discussion focused on the recent developments in the E.U. and U.S. data privacy approaches. While the U.S. relies on a combination of legislation, regulation and self-regulation to ensure proper privacy policies, the E.U. looks to a more extensive approach.

One part of the E.U.’s data protection draft regulation calls for a right to data portability – the idea that an individual would be able to easily transfer his or her data from one service to another. This would mean consumers could get an immediate download of their data held by a social network such as Facebook or a cloud provider. Wolf pointed to research from TAP Scholar Peter Swire, Ohio State University, on data portability. Swire’s paper called the draft regulation “unprecedented and problematic,” noting that it “deserves far more scrutiny before becoming a mandate that applies globally to software and online services.”

Related to current U.S. reform, the panelists discussed children’s privacy as another key issue. Feuer said the FTC’s expansion of COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) is pending, but the agency had plans to update the regulation by the end of the year. The age range of 13- to 18-year-olds offers an opportunity for discussion because this group is highly engaged in the digital world and the data they share may have lasting implications on their lives. However, Wimmer believes the idea that teenagers make more mistakes online is an urban legend, pointing to the work of danah boyd, TAP scholar and senior researcher at Microsoft Research. boyd’s study of teenagers’ attitudes on privacy has shown that young adults make fewer mistakes than one might think. According to boyd, teens have their own strategies to achieve their privacy goals that are based on social norms.

To learn more about privacy, check out the academic research TAP has available.