' James Wang | MTTLR

Privacy, a Group Effort – Approaches to International Data Privacy Agreements

The modern, digital world has made the world smaller and faster, with information and data transferred within an instant, ignoring any and all physical borders. While this digital highway is an essential pillar for our Internet age, it is also not without its problems. One such area of concern rests with data protection and privacy enforcement laws. International data transfers are the lifeblood of the digital economy. Yet, to date, there are few, if any, binding international-or global-treaties dealing with data privacy. As a result, many technology and financial companies whose global footprints permeate through various international jurisdictions are left in uncertain territory, halting international expansion and stymying economic progress. The consequences for inaction on an international data privacy framework are stark – not only are hundreds of billions of trade dollars at risk, but also it increases the risk of a digital cold war. Thus, the question is not why nations should reach international agreements on data privacy, but rather how such agreements can be made – particularly how agreements can be made between China and the West (i.e. United States and European Union). Reaching an agreement between China and the West is challenging because these nations have fundamentally different conceptions of data privacy. The Chinese government adopts a control model where its “data protection” regime is “more concerned with what information gets into the country than with what information leaves it.” This is why the Chinese government established its “Golden Shield” initiative, a nationwide digital surveillance network to monitor Internet access. In contrast, the EU adopts a rights model where “[d]ata protection is a fundamental right anchored...