A group of data privacy experts recently criticized the United States' approach to protecting consumer data, asserting that U.S. lawmakers should take note of privacy rights practiced in the European Union.
In a letter to U.S. Representative Mary Bono Mack of California, the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, which consists of 80 consumer organizations in North America and Europe, asserted that the United States is lacking when it comes to data privacy practices.
The letter, which was republished by USA Today, comes in advance of Bono Mack's hearing before the Congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, of which Bono Mack is the chair.
The TACD was largely critical of the decision to not include advocates of the E.U. Data Protection Directive, which regulates how businesses and other organizations in the European Union process personal data. The advocacy group argued that the European Union's approach to data privacy is much more clear and concise than in the United States.
On this note, the TACD certainly has a point. Data privacy regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, are marred by wordy and complicated passages that seem to confuse many businesses. Actually, it is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which is not regulated by the U.S. government, that is perhaps the most clear set of data privacy standards in the United States.
"There is much that U.S. lawmakers could learn from a fair and balanced review of the E.U. Data Directive, just as the E.U. has learned much from the U.S. experience," the TACD's letter read. "Certainly, the Directive needs improvement. Strengthening enforcement is critical as is extending the principles to law enforcement activity. Much of this work is already underway."
Though she has been critical of the European Union's approach to data protection, Bono Mack has been an advocate of simplifying data privacy practices through the United States. In August, the Representative proposed a new bill, titled the Secure and Fortify Electronic Data Act, or SAFE Act.
Under the SAFE Act, Bono Mack is attempting to establish a single data breach notification standard that would be applied to organizations across the nation. This would be a significant shift from current practices, in which individual states establish their own data security laws.
This is an approach that has been gaining favor among U.S. lawmakers, as several members of Congress have proposed data protection standards that would consolidate the current patchwork of privacy laws.