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Differing data privacy polices challenge EU, US tech council

The EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council plans to develop standards, address supply chain issues and define approaches to data governance, but the road ahead could be a bumpy one.

The U.S. plans to work with the European Union to enhance cooperation on technology policies but will face a tough road ahead aligning priorities.

The United States-European Trade and Technology Council (TCC), launched in June by President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is billed as a forum to lead international digital transformation through cooperation on technology and regulatory policies, digital issues and supply chains. The TTC will also develop technology standards and support collaborative research. It held its inaugural meeting Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

"We intend to cooperate on the development and deployment of new technologies in ways that reinforce our shared values," the White House said in a statement following the meeting.

However, experts at Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank, believe the TTC will face challenges, particularly given countries' different approaches to topics such as data privacy and regulation, as well as differing views on relationships with China.

There are long-standing differences between the United States and Europe mostly on the trade front, but it spills over into regulatory policy as well.
Thomas DuesterbergSenior fellow, Hudson Institute

"There are long-standing differences between the United States and Europe mostly on the trade front, but it spills over into regulatory policy as well," said Thomas Duesterberg, senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

TTC faces challenges with data privacy initiatives

Nadia Schadlow, senior fellow at Hudson, said during a webinar that the two sides may not agree on the group's priorities.

The TTC is divided into 10 working groups focused on areas such as standards for emerging technology like artificial intelligence, clean technology, supply chains including semiconductors, and data governance and technology platforms. It will be difficult to coordinate and make progress across all 10 focus areas, Schadlow said.

The TTC should prioritize the Privacy Shield Frameworks and issues related to data protection, which is the "key issue that underscores all of the other tech-related collaboration," she said.

The Privacy Shield Frameworks, created by the U.S. Department of Commerce, European Commission and Swiss Administration, provided a mechanism for companies to comply with data protection requirements when moving personal data from the EU and Switzerland to the U.S. Yet in 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidated the privacy shield, saying it didn't comply with the level of data protection required by the EU.

While Schadlow said the TCC should prioritize fixing the data sharing program, Tyson Barker, head of technology and global affairs at the German Council on Foreign Relations, disagreed. He said from the EU's perspective, the TTC will not be a forum to negotiate changes to the program.

Duesterberg echoed Schadlow's view and said for countries to cooperate on developing technology policies and standards, it's crucial to solve the privacy shield issue.

"It's extremely important to the U.S. economy, and I don't see how you go forward unless we can get a good resolution to that," he said.

TTC not an 'anti-China alliance'

Not being on the same page when it comes to data privacy isn't the only challenge facing the TTC.

Barker said Europeans do not want the TTC viewed as an "anti-China alliance."

Hudson Institute's Schadlow said that while she agrees the idea is not to create a choice between the U.S. and China through the TTC, there is a disconnect on issues the forum will be discussing, such as data governance and AI standards.

"Ultimately, Europeans need to realize that their longer-term concerns about data privacy, their longer-term concerns about environmental issues -- the things they put on their agenda -- will not be consistent with a long-term EU-China relationship," she said. "There will ultimately be a clash there."

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

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