Atlanta businesses are taking international data security into their own hands to protect the privacy of their employees and customers, according to a symposium on data privacy in the U.S. and Europe, held by the European Union Center of the University System of Georgia at the Georgia Institute of Technology Nov. 9.

“Global commerce will require us to come up with a common set of standards for privacy protection,” said William Long, co-director of the EU Center at Georgia Tech.

Dr. Long was one of 40 attendees from the business, legal, education and consulting communities present at the conference that highlighted how they can enhance privacy for themselves and their employees. It also addressed the differences between European and U.S. data privacy laws.

While the EU has a comprehensive law that limits the inter-company sharing of their citizens’ personal information submitted on-line, including any type of data from home addresses to soft drink preferences, U.S. companies have no such federal law. They may create their own privacy protection policies following guidelines available from the Office of the Comptroller of Currency at the U.S. Treasury Department Web site.

U.S. financial institutions must comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, or the Financial Services Modernization Act, that went into effect Nov. 13 that requires them to inform their customers of information-sharing with third parties. The deadline for compliance is July 1.

Other types of U.S. companies may choose to enact voluntary, self-regulatory privacy protection to make European companies more willing to share data with them, Dr. Long commented.

“Europeans see privacy as a fundamental human right, thus, they have enacted comprehensive governmental solutions for the protection of data privacy. Americans have greater fear of state involvement in terms of knowing about us, so we only allow government intervention in the case of a demonstrated problem,” he said.

“This is an issue that is somewhat ahead of its time and one that Atlanta businesses are just beginning to focus on. They are scrambling to learn more about it,” said Dr. Long. “We’ll be seeing a lot more of this critical issue of international data privacy, particularly on the Web.”

For guidelines and a privacy policy model, see