The Second Wave of Global Privacy Protection: Symposium Introduction
12 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2014 Last revised: 16 Sep 2020
Date Written: December 13, 2013
This is the introductory essay for the Ohio State Law Journal Symposium on "The Second Wave of Global Privacy Protection." The essay seeks to provide a readable summary of how information privacy issues have developed since the rise of the Internet in the 1990s. It explains the perspective of one person who has lived through these events, both as a participant and an academic observer.
The first wave of global privacy protection coincided with the exponential growth of the Internet during the 1990’s. By 2001, the European Union had implemented its Data Protection Directive, the United States had created privacy laws for health care, financial services, and other sectors, and the Safe Harbor was in place to create a legal structure for flows of personal information across the Atlantic. However, during the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, legislation and attention to privacy issues cooled as security issues took center stage.
We are now in the midst of a second wave of global privacy initiatives. Drivers of change include explosive growth in cloud computing, behavioral advertising, social networks, and mobile computing. The European Union is considering a major overhaul of the 1995 Directive, and comprehensive privacy laws have spread to over 100 countries around the world. In the United States, even before the attention to privacy in the wake of the Snowden leaks, the Obama administration became the first to explicitly support privacy legislation for the Internet, and the Federal Trade Commission has pushed numerous privacy initiatives.
The essay observes that it is difficult to predict what lasting legal changes will emerge from the second wave. Obstacles to U.S. privacy legislation continue to appear considerable. It would be risky, however, to assume that most or all new privacy protections will be blocked. The level of privacy debate is intense. The first wave culminated in multiple laws and new practices that have had enduring effect, and so might the second wave.
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