Private Data: Handle With Care
U.S. companies don't realize how easy they've had it when it comes to gathering consumer data until they start doing business in other parts of the worldparticularly Europe.U.S. companies dont realize how easy theyve had it when it comes to gathering consumer data until they start doing business in other parts of the worldparticularly Europe. The European Unions tough privacy laws could make it hard for those companies to collect, manage and export information about European customers. The laws, for example, require companies collecting information about individuals to satisfy each of the 15 countries in the EU that they are securing the information, giving individuals the chance to opt out and meeting other country-specific requirements. Although there have been few high-profile instances of European countries aggressively enforcing the privacy laws against U.S-based enterprises, experts say enforcement could begin as soon as this summer. That means companies deploying ambitious global CRM (customer relationship management) strategies could be forced to rethink their initiatives, particularly if they rely on personal customer information.
Financial services companies will likely have the hardest time passing the sort of consumer data they consider most usefuladdresses, credit history, job historyacross country borders, according to Sue Handman, national solutions practice director for RCG Information Technology Inc., in Edison, N.J. While other types of companies can sign a so-called Safe Harbor agreement allowing them to avoid negotiating individually with each EU country on privacy, financial services companies are not eligible for the Safe Harbor deal, which was put into place in November of last year following negotiations between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the EU. EU and Bush administration officials are still haggling over just what privacy regulations should apply to financial services companies.