The conditions for transborder data flows may become more uniform in the EU under the proposed Data Protection Regulation, but restrictions on foreign data transfers are now appearing in new data privacy laws and regulations in several regions of the world, posing global compliance challenges.
German state data protection authorities have recently criticized both cloud computing and the EU-US Safe Harbor Framework. From some of the reactions, you would think that both are in imminent danger of a European crackdown. That's not likely, but the comments reflect some concerns with recent trends in outsourcing and transborder data flows that multinationals would be well advised to address in their planning and operations.
A new set of EU standard contract clauses ("SCCs" or "model contracts") for processing European personal data abroad came into effect on May 15, 2010. Taken together with a recent opinion by the official EU "Article 29" working group on the concepts of "controller" and "processor" under the EU Data Protection Directive, this development suggests that it is time to review arrangements for business process outsourcing, software as a service (SaaS), cloud computing, and even interaffiliate support services, when they involve storing or processing personal data from Europe in the United States, India, and other common outsourcing locations.
Social networking entails some risks and responsibilities. It may implicate privacy and labor law, confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, advertising regulations, defamation, and other legal regimes, across borders in a global medium. Users, and their employers, need to be aware of these risks and responsibilities in deciding how to make best use of social media.
In other posts, I addressed the trend in the United States to require encryption for certain categories of personal data that are sought by ID thieves and fraudsters - especially Social Security Numbers, driver's license numbers, and bank account or payment card details - as well as for medical information, which individuals tend to consider especially sensitive. These concerns are not, of course, limited to the United States. Comprehensive data protection laws in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere include general obligations to maintain "reasonable" or "appropriate" or "proportional" security measures, usually without further elaboration. Some nations have gone further, however, to specify security measures.