U.S. and E.U. Stress Plans for Global Privacy Protection

European and United States leaders gathered today in Brussels and Washington, D.C. to discuss their goals for a global data privacy protection framework. European Commission VP Viviane Reding released a joint statement on privacy with U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson.

“The European Union is following new privacy developments in the United States closely,” noted the statement. “Both parties are committed to working together and with other international partners to create mutual recognition frameworks that protect privacy. Both parties consider that standards in the area of personal data protection should facilitate the free flow of information, goods and services across borders.”

The EU itself has a lot of work ahead of it to create a system that is suitable across its 27 member states. They need “one rule, a one stop shop for enforcement,” said Reding, speaking in Brussels.

In January, the commission proposed reforms to its 1995 data protection rules. Among the proposals is applicability of the privacy rules to any country active in the EU market or company offering services to the EU.

Denmark’s Jens Teilberg SØndergaard, head of division, Ministry of Justice, suggested discussions about the proposal are in the “preliminary” stage, adding that EU member states are taking an “open approach to the proposal.”

Perhaps the most significant online privacy advancement yet here in the U.S. came in February when the ad industry’s self-regulatory privacy coalition joined with the U.S. Commerce Department and Federal Trade Commission to plan for a browser-based do-not-track standard. At the same time, the Commerce Department put forth seven basic privacy protections for consumers as part of its consumer bill of rights initiative.

Massachusetts Democrat and House privacy caucus co-founder Ed Markey spoke at today’s event in Brussels, reiterating his push for passage of privacy legislation. “Congress needs to act to protect privacy as a right,” he said. Markey is a co-sponsor of the Do Not Track Kids Act which would establish a Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens.

In January, the commission’s digital agenda VP Neelie Kroes called for a global do-not-track framework. The standard should be suitable for all providers of digital goods and services and satisfy laws around the world, she said, asking for an agreement on the DNT standard by June.