Privacy Groups Push for EU Privacy Standards for U.S.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) go into effect May 25, and privacy groups are pushing companies to commit to the same standard for their U.S. operations.

That came in letters from more than two dozen privacy groups to edge giants Amazon, Facebook and Google, and ad giants Walmart, Nestle and others to use the EU regime as a baseline for their own U.S. data protection policies.

Some companies have signaled they will square their domestic policies with the new, tough EU standards, but privacy groups are looking for wider acceptance. 

Facebook, for example, has pledged to provide data control tools and options to its U.S. users. It explained in a Facebook Business post the tough new EU standards it must adhere to abroad:

"[GDPR] applies to all companies that process personal data about individuals in the EU, regardless of where the company is based," Facebook explained. "Processing is defined broadly and refers to anything related to personal data, including how a company handles and manages data, such as collecting, storing, using and destroying data."

Facebook continued: "While many of the principles of this regulation build on current EU data protection rules, the GDPR has a wider scope, more prescriptive standards and substantial fines. For example, it requires a higher standard of consent for using some types of data, and broadens the rights individuals have for accessing and transferring their data. Failure to comply with the GDPR can result in significant fines — up to 4% of global annual revenue for certain violations."

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That is the baseline privacy groups are looking for at home. Among those signing on to the letter were the Center for Digital Democracy, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). 

The GDPR "places limits on the gathering and use of personal data and establishes clear responsibilities for companies that collect it, as well as clear rights for people whose data is gathered," the groups pointed out, saying that is the sort of consumer control that should be standard across the globe.

“Since you will be providing these protections for hundreds of millions of people in Europe, there is no question that you are capable of applying the same protections worldwide,” the letter said. “We insist that you do."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.