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Internet Privacy: The Impact and Burden of EU Regulation

Statement Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee

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SOURCE: Center for American Progress

CAP Senior Fellow Peter Swire speaks before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Read the statement (CAP Action).

Chairman Upton, Ranking Member Waxman, and other distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to participate in this hearing on “Internet Privacy: The Impact and Burden of EU Regulation.”

My testimony today makes three points.

First, the EU Data Protection Directive has deep roots in the U.S. approach to privacy. It incorporates the fair information practices that were first written in the United States, and the directive has most of the same elements as U.S. laws such as Gramm-Leach-Bliley and HIPAA. The privacy principles in Europe and the United States are thus quite similar, although our precise institutions for addressing privacy are different.

Second, support for basic privacy principles is good policy for the United States. A “we don’t care about privacy” attitude from the United States would create major risks for American jobs, exports, and businesses. Other countries could then decide that the United States is a noncompliance zone and ban transfers of data to the United States. Foreign competitors could use the lack of U.S. privacy protections as an excuse for protectionism, and insist that information processing happen in their country and not in the United States.

Third, in my book on the directive and elsewhere, I have written criticisms of many aspects of European privacy law. With that said, the European regime has also made vital contributions to improving privacy practices in the United States and globally. Many of the sensible ways that we “self-regulate” in the United States today depend on privacy good practices that were shaped by discussions in Europe about how to achieve business goals while also protecting individual privacy.

CAP Senior Fellow Peter Swire speaks before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Read the statement (CAP Action).

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