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Will data-sharing agreement affect tech industry?

Molly Wood Jan 29, 2016
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Sometimes sharing isn’t caring.

Europe and the U.S. have set a deadline to reach a data-sharing agreement by Jan. 31, 2016. This comes after the European Court of Justice ruled that the current arrangement was invalid and didn’t protect European citizens’ information.

Europe passed a data protection directive in 1995 that was strict on companies and assumed more rights to the consumer. The U.S., on the other hand, has been more of a free for all.

“The American framework was basically, ‘You should have a privacy policy, and then whatever you say in it you should stick to it,’” said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law and computer science at Harvard and co-Founder and director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “A privacy policy could say we can do whatever we want with your data and boom — that’s the policy.”

The issue is that European citizen data could be “parked” in U.S. information providers, says Zittrain, which could give the U.S. Government the right to access the data. And after former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked information in 2013 about U.S. Government’s surveillance methods, Europe began to distrust the U.S. Government and the tech industry.

If the two nations can’t reach an agreement, Europe has threatened to impose penalties against U.S. companies for “illegal data transfers.”

However, tech companies might have little to worry about.

“My guess is that this will be resolved,” said Zittrain. “I can’t imagine that we’re going to see U.S. companies stand up physical servers and really keep an eye on who’s a citizen of where.”

Additional production by Levi Sharpe.

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