EU and US Data Protection Reforms. A Comparative View

AuthorGabriela Zanfir
PositionPhD student, Assistant Researcher, Faculty of Law and Administrative Studies, University of Craiova
Legal Sciences
EU and US Data Protection Reforms. A Comparative View
Gabriela Zanfir
Abstract: This research makes a comparative analysis of two significant reform projects in data protection
legislation, proposed in early 2012 in the EU and the US, in order to identify the c ommon philosophies and
also the main differences between them. Its outcomes are important as transatlantic data transfers are
exponentially incr easing and their main actors need to know what to expect from both legal regimes. The
paper builds on a ground zero, as both reform projects were made public in late January – respectively late
February, so such a comparison can only refer to res earches made prior to the announcements regarding the
general concepts of privacy and data protection in the European and American view. The main method
employed is comparative observation. The results show that EU and US legislations start using the same
language regarding data pr otection law – by the legal definitions proposed and main principles implemented,
while s till keeping significant differences. Academics and researchers will have a starting point for future
comparative analyzes in a legal field which enjoys a lot of attention from lawmakers all over the globalized
world. The paper focuses on very recent legal developments, which need throughout analysis in order to
make them functional in practice.
Keywords: privacy; EU-US data transfers; legal definitions; privacy principles
1. Introduction
Privacy and data protection are a main concern for lawmakers of properly safeguarding human rights
and democracies. Living in a Surveillance Society is already a fact of the modern world and not only
an Orwellian product of imagination
. Thankfully, the democratic mechanisms keep the Surveillance
Society in a framework of respect for human rights. Among such mechanisms, the most important is
the regulation of the protection of privacy and personal information. A recent study discovered that the
total number of new privacy laws globally, viewed by decade, shows that their growth is accelerating,
not merely expanding linearly: 8 (1970s), 13 (1980s), 21 (1990s), 35 (2000s) and 12 (2 years of the
2010s), giving the total of 89 (Greenleaf, 2012). The phenomenon began in Europe, Germany being
the first country which provided for a data protection law, but only in one of its regions – Hasse, in
1970. Several countries soon followed the model: Sweden, Denmark, France.
The European Union’s jurisdiction became the leading global defendant of personal data, imposing a
minimum standard of protection to countries that want to engage in data transfers with European
entities. And one of the countries that do not provide a minimum degree of compliance is the United
States of America. Hence, the two entities agreed upon a procedure called The Safe Harbor pri nciples,
which allow processors to make transatlantic data transfers. In early 2012, both countries made official
announcements regarding data protection reforms. The European Commission published the proposed
regulation for data protection on January 25 and the White House published the Consumer Privacy
Bill of Rights a month later.
PhD student, Assistant Researcher, Faculty of L aw and Administrative Studies, University of Craiova. Address:
A. I.
Cuza Str., Craiova 2 00585, Romania, Tel.: +40 251 414398, fax: +40 251 411688, Corresponding author:
See ‘A Report on the Surveillance Society’ for the UK Information Commissioner, by the Surveillance Study Network
(September 2006).

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