Online Businesses Face Tighter Privacy Rules In Europe



U.S. companies with online businesses in Europe will have to adopt stricter data privacy policies under the outlines of an agreement reached this week between U.S. regulators and European Union negotiators. The two sides expect to complete negotiations on a comprehensive agreement by the end of March.

Companies with online businesses in Europe will have to adhere to a set of privacy principles, according to David Aaron, U.S. undersecretary for international trade in the U.S. Commerce Department. During a briefing with reporters today, Aaron said online companies will have to provide notice to customers when they are collecting data, must give customers a choice whether they want the data collected, and must provide customers with access to any data about themselves that online companies collect. Customers will have to be given the same notice and options whenever an online company intends to provide customer data to other parties.

European countries have threatened to block U.S. E-commerce companies from entering the European market unless they adhere to the European Directive on Data Protection, which was implemented in late 1998 and has strict privacy requirements. U.S. and European negotiators have been trying to hammer out an agreement on the dispute ever since.

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