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European Union, U.S. promise continued online data privacy dialogue

In recent months, both the European Union and the United States have made strides to protect online data privacy: In January, the EU adopted legislative proposals to reform its online data protection rules. A month later, President Obama released a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” proposal.

The two countries believe there’s strength in numbers when it comes to online data privacy: In a joint statement delivered Monday at a conference on online data privacy and protection, the European Union and the United States committed to work together to maintain it.

Doing so will enhance consumer trust and promote continued growth of the global Internet economy, they say. This last part is important — anytime there’s the potential for new regulations to comply with, be it privacy or otherwise, at least some companies cry foul about how it will ultimately affect the bottom line.

“Both parties consider that standards in the area of personal data protection should facilitate the free flow of information, goods and services across borders,” according to a joint statement released by European Commission vice president Viviane Reding and U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson.

And the two countries don’t want to stop there: They pledged to engage with other international partners to increase interoperability in privacy laws and regulations, as well as cooperate on enforcement. By creating “mutual recognition” privacy frameworks, the U.S. and EU hope they are just the beginning in steps toward privacy rules on a more global scale.

The two promised to build on the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, and the statement pointed out that since its inception in 2000, over 3,000 companies have self-certified to it. This demonstrates these companies’ “commitment to privacy protection and to facilitate transatlantic trade,” according to the joint statement.

The statement again mentioned the commitment to fostering business as well as privacy maintenance, and promised to use the Safe Harbor Network as a tool to promote economic growth.

As I stated before in this space, this buy-in and commitment to business is key to any privacy initiatives’ success. This is especially true if these online data privacy push continues to lack hard and fast privacy rules — and hefty fines for noncompliance. Until then, protecting consumer data privacy will largely be left up to the businesses themselves.

But judging by the U.S. and EU’s joint statement, universal online data privacy compliance may be on the horizon.

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