My colleague Ben Wizner and I are in Brussels this week, partly to meet with European lawmakers and others about the new privacy regime that the EU is in the process of putting into place. Unlike the United States, Europe has a set of basic rules and institutions in place to protect individuals’ privacy, and is trying to update its existing rules and institutions for the digital age.
The United States needs similar protections—a basic, overarching privacy law, and institutions with the teeth to enforce it. We are an outlier in the world in lacking those things. However, some U.S. companies seem to be terrified at the prospect of basic, fair privacy rules being put into place in Europe. Not only are companies such as Facebook and Google furiously lobbying against those rules, but the U.S. government has “shocked” Europeans by also lobbying hard against many elements of this update.