US, EU pledge teamwork at ‘defining moment’ for privacy rules

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The statement was issued at the beginning of the High Level Conference on Privacy and Protection of Personal Data, which is being held simultaneously in Washington and Brussels.

"This is a defining moment for global personal data protection and privacy policy and for achieving further interoperability of our systems on a high level of protection," Bryson and Reding said.

The European Union has much tougher privacy regulations than the United States. 

Europe enforces strict rules for how Web companies must handle user data, but in the United States, aside from the handling of health records, the government mostly requires only that companies abide by their own privacy policies. 

The White House last month issued a blueprint, dubbed a "privacy bill of rights," outlining how Web companies should handle personal information.

The White House's principles are not legally enforceable, but the administration urged Congress to enact them into law.

The White House declared that consumers have a right to control what data organizations collect from them and how they use it. People have a right to "reasonable limits" on the collection of their personal data and a right to access the data that companies have gathered on them, according to the blueprint; further, companies' privacy policies should be easy to understand and companies must protect user data from hacking and leaks.