The Governance Turn in Information Privacy Law
28 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 11, 2019
The governance turn in information privacy law is a turn away from a model of bureaucratic administration of individual control rights and toward a model of collaborative governance of shared interests in information. Collaborative information governance has roots in the American pragmatic philosophy of Peirce, James and Dewey and the 1973 HEW Report that rejected unilateral individual control rights, recognizing instead the essential characteristic of mutuality of shared purposes that are mediated through information governance. America’s current information privacy law regime consists of market mechanisms supplemented by sector-specific, risk-based laws designed to foster a culture of compliance. Prior to the GDPR, data protection law compliance in Europe was more honored in the breach than the observance, so the EU’s strengthening of its bureaucratic individual control rights model reveals more about the EU’s democratic deficit than a commitment to compliance. The conventional “Europe good, America bad” wisdom about information privacy law obscures a paradox: if the focus shifts from what “law in the books” says to what “law in action” does, it quickly becomes apparent that American businesses lead the world with their efforts to comply with information privacy law, so “America good, Europe bad” might be more accurate. Creating a federal legislative interface through which regulators and voluntary, consensus standards organizations can collaborate could break the current political stalemate triggered by California’s 2018 EU-style information privacy law. Such a pragmatic approach to information governance can safeguard Americans’ continued access to the benefits of innovation and economic growth as well as providing risk-based protection from harm. America can preserve its leadership of the global information economy by rejecting EU-style information privacy laws and building instead a flexible, dynamic framework of information governance capable of addressing both privacy and disclosure issues simultaneously.
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