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International effort on privacy protection is launched

OECD countries to cooperate on data protection

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The world's most developed economies will co-operate to uphold privacy laws in the face of increasing amounts of cross-border data transfer. The member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have agreed the plan.

The new deal updates a 25-year-old agreement on the upholding of privacy laws. A new deal was needed in order to guard against the privacy risks of the increasing amounts of personal data currently being sent from country to country.

"The initiative is motivated by a recognition that changes in the character and volume of cross-border data flows have elevated privacy risks for individuals and highlighted the need for better co-operation among the authorities charged with providing them protection," said a statement from the OECD.

The OECD recommendation (pdf) outlines the ways in which member governments have agreed to help each other to protect privacy by increasing the amount of international co-operation on privacy laws. It also outlines how countries will assist one another in the enforcement of privacy laws.

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is behind the recommendations, which provide common methods by which countries can co-operate.

Each country will produce a list of contacts who will co-ordinate any foreign requests for assistance in protecting privacy. They will also begin to use a standardised form when requesting assistance of another country.

More than 25 years ago the OECD produced its Privacy Guidelines. Most countries adopted privacy laws after this, though, and the organisation says that the nature and function of cross-border data exchange have changed significantly in that time.

"OECD work on privacy law enforcement co-operation was undertaken in the context of increasing concerns about the privacy risks associated with the changing character and growing volume of cross-border data flows," says the recommendation. "Globalisation, the emergence of 'follow the sun' business models, the growth of the internet and falling communication costs dramatically increase the amount of personal information flowing across borders. This increase in transborder information flows benefits both organisations and individuals by lowering costs, increasing efficiency and improving customer convenience. At the same time, these personal information flows elevate concerns about privacy, and present new challenges with respect to protecting individuals’ personal information."

The OECD is an organisation comprising members from Europe, America and other developed economies. It aims to help these countries solve some of the problems created by increasing globalisation.

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