Personal Data and the GDPR: Providing a Competitive Advantage for U.S. Companies

Forthcoming, 56 American Business Law Journal 287-344 (Summer 2019)

45 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019

See all articles by W. Gregory Voss

W. Gregory Voss

Toulouse Business School

Kimberly Houser

Oklahoma State University

Date Written: May 16, 2019


The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became applicable in May 2018. Due to the GDPR’s extraterritorial scope, which could result in massive fines for U.S. companies, comparative data privacy law is of great current interest. In June 2018, California passed its own Consumer Privacy Act (CaCPA), echoing some of the provisions of the GDPR. Despite the many articles comparing the two schemes of law, little attention has been given to the foundation of these laws, that is, what exactly encompasses the data referred to by these laws? By understanding how the term “personal data” or “personal information” is defined in both jurisdictions, and why these definitions and the treatment of protected data are so different, companies can strategize to take advantage of these developments in the European Union. After explaining the differences in how data is treated in the United States and the European Union by exploring the definitions, regulations, and court cases, we will explore the five legal strategy pathways that companies might pursue with respect to the legal aspects of data transfer and privacy law compliance. While these strategies range from ignoring the law to adopting the European model worldwide, this analysis of legal strategy reveals a means for companies to gain a competitive advantage through their adoption of a world-wide compliance scheme.

Keywords: data protection, data privacy, compliance, privacy, extraterritoriality, general data protection regulation, GDPR, California Consumer Privacy Act, CaCPA, personal data, personal information, PII, European Union, EU law, comparative law, legal strategy

JEL Classification: K2, K19, K20, K29, K42, K39

Suggested Citation

Voss, W. Gregory and Houser, Kimberly, Personal Data and the GDPR: Providing a Competitive Advantage for U.S. Companies (May 16, 2019). Forthcoming, 56 American Business Law Journal 287-344 (Summer 2019). Available at SSRN:

W. Gregory Voss (Contact Author)

Toulouse Business School ( email )

20, bd Lascrosses
Toulouse, 31068

Kimberly Houser

Oklahoma State University ( email )

335 Spears College of Business
Stillwater, OK 74074
United States
+1(405)744-9430 (Phone)

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