Europe and U.S. converging on Internet privacy

Mon Mar 28, 2011 12:10pm EDT
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By Eva Dou

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - Few topics are more sensitive for Web users, or more likely to raise concerns in the corridors of Facebook or Google, than how to regulate privacy.

For years the United States and Europe, with around 700 million Internet users between them, have diverged in their approach to policing the Web.

But the two sides are converging in their Web privacy positions, partly through intensive meetings in recent months between regulators from Washington and Brussels.

There are still many specifics to be worked out -- final legislative proposals are not expected from the European Union until later this year and the United States in June or July -- but officials are confident about steadily narrowing the gap.

"Until recently there was a common belief that our approaches on privacy differed so much that it would be difficult to work together," the EU's justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, said in a recent speech.

"This can no longer be argued."

Experts from both sides gathered again in Brussels last week. Afterwards the U.S. ambassador to the EU, William Kennard, mirrored Reding's thoughts, saying differences between the two sides had been overstated.

"People in Europe thought we were not as concerned as we are about updating our privacy laws," he said, adding that the U.S. has now made its support of stronger privacy rules clear.   Continued...

<p>Visitors look at laptops on display during the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>