On January 11, 2011, Michelle O’Neill, U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade, held a briefing on her November 2010 meetings in Brussels with European data protection authorities.  She discussed a data protection and privacy forum that was convened in November at which she met with several high-level European regulators, including Jacob Kohnstamm, Viviane Reding and Peter Hustinx.  O’Neill mentioned “the right to be forgotten” as a current hot-button issue in Europe.  Commissioner Reding, who is firmly in charge of the reconsideration of the EU Data Protection Directive, focused on ensuring easier compliance with EU data protection rules and greater harmonization among Member States.  O’Neill stated that Peter Hustinx was encouraged by the work ongoing in the United States, including the “Green Paper” issued by the Department of Commerce.  He considers the various U.S. efforts a basis for further dialogue with U.S. authorities.  O’Neill noted that comments to the EU consultation are due January 15, 2011.  The Department of Commerce intends to file a response.

O’Neill met with Françoise Le Bail, Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry, to discuss the Safe Harbor framework.  She noted that the European Commission will host, and the Department of Commerce will co-sponsor, a Safe Harbor conference in late November 2011.

The Department of Commerce seeks to play an active role in the international dialogue, but does not see the need for a formal process at this time.  Instead, Commerce will be looking for opportunities to engage with the European Commission informally by leveraging existing events.  O’Neill indicated that the regulators in Brussels reacted positively to the Department’s Green Paper, and noted that comments in response to the Green Paper are due January 28, 2011.

O’Neill further noted that the White House National Science and Technology Council’s Privacy and Internet Policy Subcommittee has formed a group to address international issues.  She commented on the level of coordination between the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission, indicating that Commerce continues to work closely with the FTC to further their common goals.