NGOs decry U.S. lobbying campaign against European Union data protection directive

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More than a dozen consumer and civil liberties groups sent a letter to the Obama administration urging the United States to support Europe's efforts to update and strengthen privacy legislation while decrying an "unprecedented lobbying campaign" by the U.S. government and industry to limit the protections that the proposed European Union data protection directive would provide.

The Feb. 4 letter (.pdf) to Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State John Kerry, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk, and Ambassador for the U.S. Mission to the European Union William Kennard claims that a group of U.S. NGO leaders learned about the "mounting" lobbying campaign from members of the European Parliament and their staff on a recent trip to Brussels.

"We also found that the Europeans were excited to hear a different view from the U.S.," the letter states. "And most significantly, we learned that Europeans and Americans have similar concerns about the need for privacy protection. We share a fundamental belief that Europe and the United States need to update their privacy laws."

The NGOs argue in their letter that President Obama has an equally strong commitment to the protection of privacy, noting that in February 2012 he set out a comprehensive privacy framework with principles designed to establish new safeguards for consumers and new responsibilities for companies that collect and use personal information. "These principles reflect many of the same goals contained in the European privacy initiative," the letter asserts. "But the key is that these principles must be given legal force."

The signatories to the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, and Government Accountability Project. The organizations seek a meeting with administration officials to "ensure that the efforts of U.S. policymakers in Europe advance the aim of privacy and are not averse to the views expressed by the President."

For more:
-read the letter (.pdf)

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