Privacy's new image

Monday, 8 September 2003, 3:34 AM EST

Where privacy is concerned, Americans distrust their government. But they'll gladly hand over their personal information to a corporation to get a deal on their groceries.

Europeans, on the other hand, will give their government extremely broad surveillance powers, but they largely forbid private enterprise from accessing any personal data without their express written consent. In the corporate security world, this has translated into an ideological disconnect: U.S. executives think Europeans are missing the marketing opportunity personal data provides, and the Europeans, by and large, see their American counterparts as fast and loose—callous even—when it comes to their citizens' privacy. Until recently these issues had settled into a quiet détente. However, resentments churned up by recent world events have European privacy experts predicting that U.S. companies are likely to face a new hard-line approach to privacy enforcement in their business dealings on the continent.

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