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According to a new White House report on consumer data privacy protection, trust is worth a lot of money to U.S. businesses—users have to know their data will be protected if the economic engine of digital innovation is to keep roaring. Ergo, the U.S. needs a privacy framework that’s “flexible” enough to accommodate industry innovation, and comprehensive enough that consumers will feel safe—and keep clicking. But trust between consumers and companies in the U.S. is only part of the equation. There’s another important element, too: how compatible U.S. safeguards are with those of the rest of the world, and particularly Europe. This new proposal arrives a month ahead of a conference on data protection between E.U. and U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., leading to questions about whether Europe and the U.S. are any closer to getting on the same page when it comes to data privacy. The answer not only depends on who you ask, but also what section of the White House’s report you’re looking at. The white paper lists seven principles and stresses that these principles should form the basis of voluntary codes of conduct adopted by industry. Once adopted, the Federal Trade Commission would have the power to enforce compliance to those codes. The paper also includes a call for Congress to pass legislation based on these principles, and devotes a section to “international  interoperability”—which considers how data can be sent across international borders without violating laws on either side of the transaction. Let’s start with the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. As Joseph Turrow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told NPR’s Fresh Air, even the wording of the report’s title is a noteworthy choice:

[Europeans] believe in privacy as [a] human right. And that’s the interesting thing about how [the upcoming] Commerce Department report is positioned: as a right. There are some advocates who don’t like what they see in the policy because they think it’s too loose. But the very fact that it’s called a right is interesting rhetorically. Some people would say they’re moving in the right direction.

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