Intellectual property/telecommunications: EU-US friction over Data Protection Directive

United Kingdom

EU-US friction over Data Protection Directive

The Data Protection Directive, which is to come into force in October, is souring EU-US relations. The Directive obliges EU governments to ensure that data transferred to non-EU countries has the same level of protection as that available in the EU. It is feared that this will hamper those companies which deal with companies outside the EU. The Directive aims to protect individuals' privacy and to harmonise laws to ensure the free flow of information. The US particularly objects to:

  • the idea of an independent body to hear complaints about how individuals' data is being used (the US would prefer self- regulation);

  • the difficulties involved in monitoring cross-border information;

  • the vagueness of some of the wording of the Directive, such as "adequate protection".

Both sides are keen to avoid all-out confrontation and the Commission has denied that the EU is trying to export its regulatory system to the rest of the world.