The APEC Privacy Initiative: 'OECD Lite' for the Asia-Pacific?

Privacy Laws & Business, Vol. 71, pp. 16-18, January/February 2004

7 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2004

See all articles by Graham Greenleaf

Graham Greenleaf

University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law


The twenty-one APEC economies (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) commenced development in 2003 of an Asia-Pacific privacy standard, and in 2004 may develop a procedure for handling data export limitation issues. This may become the most significant international privacy initiative since the European Union's privacy Directive of the mid-1990s.

It is a Janus-faced initiative. It has the potential to encourage the development of stronger privacy laws in the those APEC economies that at present provide little privacy protection (the majority), and to help find a regional balance between protection of privacy and the economic benefits of trade involving personal data. It also presents considerable potential dangers to long-term regional privacy protection if it becomes a means by which the APEC economies accept a second-rate standard. Globally, a high APEC standard could be a means of resolving international data export issues, but low APEC standards could entrench a privacy confrontation between Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The history to date of the APEC initiative shows that the dangers are as great as the potential benefits, but a valuable outcome for privacy protection is still possible.

This paper analyses the version of the APEC draft guidelines current in early February 2004 (the penultimate draft of Version 8), prior to the Santiago meeting of the APEC privacy subcommittee.

Four types of weaknesses in the APEC draft guidelines are detailed and criticised: (1) Weaknesses inherent in the OECD Principles (2) Further weakening of the OECD Principles in the APEC version (3) A retrograde new 'Preventing Harm' Principle (4) Regional experience in developing privacy laws has been ignored as yet

The APEC proposals under consideration for self-assessment of compliance, and data export limits, are outlined.

The paper concludes that the APEC draft is not yet a satisfactory standard for privacy protection in the Asia-Pacific.

Keywords: privacy, APEC, data exports, personal information, Asia-Pacific

Suggested Citation

Greenleaf, Graham, The APEC Privacy Initiative: 'OECD Lite' for the Asia-Pacific?. Privacy Laws & Business, Vol. 71, pp. 16-18, January/February 2004. Available at SSRN:

Graham Greenleaf (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney, New South Wales 2052
+61 2 9385 2233 (Phone)
+61 2 9385 1175 (Fax)


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