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US and Europe finally agree on data protection

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The EC has agreed a deal with the US which patches up previous disagreements over data protection. The problem stemmed from the fact that the US relies on a self-regulation system for the security of personal information - Europe on the other hand has gone for a legislative approach.

Because of the opposing philosophies, an almighty row was brewing where data transfer would be blocked by the EC - not a great advert for e-commerce, or in fact modern communications.

Still, it all been sorted, and this is the deal: companies in the US will sign up for a voluntary set of principles. Once this is done, access is free and easy. If, however, a company decides not to (sign up), it will have to negotiate individual contracts - a costly and time-consuming process. And so the two cultures arrive at compromise.

Mind you this isn't as much a success as a necessity. The force behind an agreement is so huge that any blocks in place would have quickly buckled. It does come as a relief though that bureaucracy hasn't managed to disrupt the whole system through petty ego-led argument.

Not everyone is entirely happy though. ISPs and comms firms are worried about the old opt in/opt out unsolicited email saga. To our mind, no one has yet to come up with a good explanation as to why the system should mean that ordinary individuals should have to contact companies to prevent receiving mail (opt-out). ISPs want it of course, but that doesn't mean anyone else does. Still, we remain open on the issue.

As it stands, the measures will introduce an opt-in approach. This basically prevents massive abuse of the system - the most famous effect of which is spam.

Of course, as resident realist John has pointed out, this deal also effectively allows the States to continue doing exactly what they were doing but to the cost of the stricter EC laws. Saving face anyone? ®

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