The US government watchdog called the Federal Trade commission just signed a 7 country, cross-border sharing agreement on privacy. So far, the US has been the only country to announce it, though. This new system is named the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) and was signed at the 37th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. It is designed to allow for seamless transition of personal information across borders with a wide variety of rules. Despite being newly signed, discussion of the GPEN plan has been going on for more than two years.
The countries involved in this agreement are the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway. Privacy offices from other countries have never cared for the American approach to privacy matters, especially in regards to commercial use of data. The hope is that these countries will be able to re-negotiate some of the specifics of this system.
Recently, 13 recommendations were made by the European Union in regards to policy changes for the US. Stating national security reasons, the US would not budge on those points. In comparison, the EU’s policies on privacy are much more stringent. This, however, is a baby step towards protecting the privacy of the average citizen.
If you have followed the news, you may have heard of the recent invalidation of the Safe Harbor program. This ill-fated act got overturned after 15 years in place because it was deemed as inadequate to provide the layer of protection that was expected. One of the big problems with that program was what seemed to be a lack of interest. Before it was overturned, there were only 4 referrals of rules violations.
Whether this new agreement will succeed where the Safe Harbor program failed, remains to be seen. The negotiations and rules of this new agreement have not yet been made public. In a speech last week made by the FTC commissioner, Julie Brill, she stated that “Although the text being negotiated by the Commission and the United States has not been made public, I have every reason to believe that both sides understand the need to ensure that these substantive protections are more robust, and that both sides have been working to that end.”
Privacy rights should be international, and there are several factors that could determine the success or failure of this agreement. It is hard to go to a day without hearing about one privacy violation or another. Privacy protections are not anywhere near where they should be, but hopefully, this agreement will put more countries on the same page. Let us hope so.