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The growing differences on data privacy between the U.S. and Europe are turning the subject into a highly politicized matter that is impacting corporations at every level, and in particular the office of the general counsel. Whether you consider former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a hero, a traitor, a patriot or a whistleblower, he has permanently changed the information privacy landscape. His revelations have opened the public’s eyes to one of the hottest topics in the information privacy landscape: data seizure.

For the growing number of companies that do business in both jurisdictions, legal departments need to help their companies devise an approach that will comply with the very different rules they impose. In order for a company to stay current, two main concepts need to be proactively addressed: data seizure and policy management.

For any privacy-minded business or person, the idea of data seizure is a truly terrifying subject. While there is the well-known and more publicized method of data seizure via a legal subpoena, there is a darker and more secretive method via the Patriot Act. Under the authority of the Patriot Act, the U.S. government can seize data in secret. This has led to widespread privacy-related complications when European countries engage in data exchanges with the United States. A corporation that is serving European Uunion clients should understand that territorial borders do not relieve a company of its jurisdictional obligations, no matter where the data is housed. If you work for a U.S.-based company, it does not matter if your company houses its data (or its clients’ data) in Iceland. As a U.S.-based entity, data may be seized by the U.S. government regardless of the data location.

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