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APEC Approves Cross-Border Privacy Rules

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

18 November 2011

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC) has approved a new initiative to harmonize cross-border data privacy protection, which is designed to enhance the protection of consumer data that moves between its members, including the United States, at a time when more consumer information is moving across national borders.

The APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules were approved at the recent Leaders Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. The rules are a self-regulatory code of conduct designed to create more consistent privacy protections for consumers when their data moves between countries with different privacy regimes in the APEC region.

The voluntary rules will promote a baseline set of data privacy practices for companies doing business in participating APEC economies. This is said to be especially critical for companies doing business in the Asia Pacific region, with its impressive growth, dynamism and potential for expanded trade.

Companies that wish to participate in the APEC privacy system will undergo a review and certification process by third parties that will examine corporate privacy policies and practices and enforce the new privacy rules. In addition, the official privacy authorities in the APEC region that choose to participate in the programme will serve as backstop enforcers of the rules.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), that helped the Department of Commerce to develop the APEC privacy rules, welcomed the approval. FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez noted that the global flow of data raises significant consumer protection issues.

“With personal information now moving around the world in the blink of an eye, we need pragmatic ways to bridge the gaps between different legal systems and privacy regimes. The APEC privacy rules have the potential to significantly benefit companies, consumers, and privacy regulators and move us closer to global interoperability of privacy regimes,” she said.

US Commerce Secretary John Bryson also applauded the completion of the privacy rules, adding that “this initiative is an important development in international data protection. The US and its trading partners in APEC recognized the need for a data privacy framework that provides effective privacy protection for consumers while avoiding barriers to information flows.”

It is hoped that the new privacy system will be launched by the APEC member countries next year.

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