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NGOs warn of US lobbying efforts against European privacy legislation

Europe is eyeing strong privacy regulation that some U.S. companies oppose

Top U.S. officials will be warned in a letter Monday of an intense U.S. lobbying effort that seeks to weaken European privacy legislation.

The letter, a copy of which was seen Sunday by IDG News Service, was drafted by groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Digital Democracy.

It will be sent to Secretary of State John Kerry, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk and U.S. Mission to European Union Ambassador William Kennard.

The letter contends there is strong opposition from the U.S. government and U.S. companies to strengthening European privacy laws. The conclusion was drawn by officials of nongovernmental organizations who traveled to Brussels last month and spoke to Members of European Parliament (MEPs), the letter said.

"Without exception, the MEPs and staff reported that both the U.S. Government and U.S. industry are mounting an unprecedented lobbying campaign to limit the protections that European law would provide," the letter said.

Other signatories to the letter include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Consumer Federation of America, Government Accountability Project, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Europe is debating updates to its data protection regulations that date from 1995 as well as considering a directive for law enforcement that would define the collection of personal data by police.

The rise of social networking has prompted debate over how companies handle people's personal data. Other emerging technologies, such as cloud computing, have also raised concerns over cross-border transfers of data.

The NGOs are firmly in support of Europe's interest in creating stronger privacy controls. It also noted that in February 2012 President Barack Obama "set out a comprehensive privacy framework designed to establish new safeguards for consumers and new responsibilities for companies that collect and use personal information."

"Our personal data -- our privacy -- is being abused by both the commercial sector and governments," the letter said. "In fact, the line is increasingly blurred as personal data passes between both with few restrictions."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk


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