聯合報╱By MARK SCOTT╱馮克芸譯】

Where Privacy Is Now the Law

From Silicon Valley, American tech companies oversee ever-expanding global empires.

Google has a bigger slice of the online search market in Europe than it does at home . More than 80 percent of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users live outside the United States, with Brazil and India among the social network’s most important markets. And Apple now sells more iPhones and iPads in Shanghai and St. Petersburg than it does in San Diego.



The world’s seemingly insatiable appetite for all things tech has made many of these giants among the most profitable companies in the world. But selling these products has also placed them largely at odds with global privacy rules that go far beyond what American lawmakers demand at home.

The tech companies often rely on lengthy (frequently incomprehensible) consent forms and free speech rights to protect themselves against claims of misuse of their users’ online information. But that defense does not hold up in large parts of the world, including Malaysia, South Africa, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Argentina.



The right to privacy is taken more seriously abroad, notably in Europe, where politicians are considering rules that would fine any company up to $125 million or 5 percent of its annual revenue if it flouted the region’s strict data protection rules.

And regulators from Paraguay to the Philippines are lifting passages — almost word for word — from Europe’s tough privacy laws .

“Europe’s data protection rules have become the default privacy settings for the world,” said Billy Hawkes, a former data protection regulator for Ireland .




Facebook has repeatedly had to rewrit e its privacy policies to give its global users a greater say in how their online data is used.

“Facebook just took its U.S. privacy policy and rolled it out in Europe,” said Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer who has filed a class-action lawsuit against the social network involving more than 25,000 users for violating the region’s data protection laws when it sent individuals’ personal data to the United States, where domestic intelligence agencies could gain access to the information. “They never wanted to adapt their privacy rules to anywhere outside America.”



圖擷自Facebook Privacy Basics
Microsoft claims that its cloud computing services (which allow people to store documents and photos on the Internet) now comply with Europe’s tough data protection rules — the only American company so far to receive such approval.


Google, meanwhile, is scrambling to comply with a recent European court ruling that allows anyone — whether in or out of the 28-member European Union — to ask that links to online information about themselves be removed from its global search results.

Although Google fought hard to block this so-called right to be forgotten, it lost the battle, and has scrubbed thousands of links from its search results to adhere to the European ruling. Advocates for the new standard are hoping to force the company to extend the practice across its entire global search business — and potentially to the United States.



“Americans really do care about these issues,” said Gus Hosein, a senior fellow at Privacy International, a London- based consumer advocacy group . “But right now, they have very limited rights that they can exert over how their data is used.”

Across the globe, countries are looking toward Europe for cues on how best to protect their citizens’ privacy. When Brazil unveiled the country’s new Internet bill of rights, lawmakers demanded that tech companies obtain permission from users before sharing their data with online advertisers and marketers.



New rules in South Africa forbid sending people’s online information electronically to countries that do not replicate its stringent privacy laws .

In South Korea, people have the right to access their online information held by tech companies whenever they want.

For tech giants like Google and Facebook, the path ahead is clear. These companies may call Silicon Valley home, but they’re increasingly falling in step with international regulators.




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