United States Dominates Data Collection, But Far From a Model for the World

The United State owns the market on personal data with companies like Facebook and Google. This puts America in a position of power when talking about privacy rights. But that may mean being at odds with the international community.

What you put online is hardly a secret anymore, and it's astounding to see how much American companies have made off of your customer information (hint: it's a multi-billion dollar industry). But the United States is in a position of power when it comes to privacy rights—not just here, but all over the world.

Adam Tanner, contributor to Forbes and author of What Stays in Vegas, writes that there's an international audience watching to see what privacy practices become the norm in the U.S. and which ones will be considered taboo. There's quite a contrast among certain countries when you take the United States' stance on third-party information—it's unprotected by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Then you look at the European Union, which sees processing personal data—even if it's public information—as bound to certain rules. Countries, like Germany are seen as over-protective of individual's privacy rights.

The U.S. rules the market in data collection with companies, like Google and Facebook, which means they may dictate the conversation. Ronald Leenes, Professor at the Tilburg Institute for Law in the Netherlands, sat down with Tanner and offered his opinion:

They are constantly testing the limits and export the U.S. model to Europe and elsewhere. Given their dominance of US companies in cyberspace, we can ask ourselves whether the practices you discuss in your book and presentation display our common future.”

“We do have stricter regulation. Is this adequate to keep data brokers at bay? Color me skeptical here.”

Not every country has the luxury of taking on these questions, too. There are people who have to worry about putting food on the table—for them privacy concerns fall to the wayside when basic needs have to be tended to. Teki Akuetteh, Director of Ghana's Data Protection Commission, explains:

When you live in a country where it is very difficult for the ordinary person to make ends meet — provision of very basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter — privacy and personal data protection becomes an abstract idea that least gets their attention.”

The same can't be said for the United States, however, according to the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of Americans “'agree' or 'strongly agree' that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.” The United States may own the data market, but there don't seem to be many happy customers between their own citizens and those across the Atlantic.

Read more at Forbes

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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