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Is user data protected in the United States?

The advance of digital technologies has implemented profound changes in humanity, but it has also facilitated everyday tasks such as online purchasing of products, distance learning and even interpersonal communications. However, in all these digital procedures come with a great responsibility: to protect the data and the virtual integrity of the users.

The recent case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica again highlighted the need to manage the privacy of digital users ethically and responsibly. The legal repercussions of inappropriate use of private information can be costly in some countries.

The lawsuit in the Facebook case was brought by the United Kingdom.where several people denounced that their private information and identity were used for the development of electoral campaigns and political propaganda. The legal situation faced by the most popular social network today, puts the spotlight on the legal systems that States build to protect this data.

In the United States and Europe, these mechanisms are very different.In the old continent, the tendency is to protect in the best possible way all the information provided by the user; while in the North American country, national security is usually privileged over the property of each citizen of his private information.

User data: two visions of protection

Three laws have the function of protecting data in the United States and mainly safeguard health and credit information. These are: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act enacted in 1996 to preserve individual medical information, making it available only to treating health care professionals; the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, enacted with the intent of safeguarding consumer credit information and preventing fraud associated with data theft; and the United States Children's Privacy Protection Act, created to protect the privacy of young people under 13 years of age on the web.

It is only in these areas that the United States is committed to protecting online user data. Legally, it can be seen that the country's regulations on this matter are sectorial and do not have a general scope, unlike European nations that generally have similar regulatory mechanisms and broad projection for both the public and private sectors.

The importance of the protection of private information is so relevant in Europe that there are national agencies, a group of the European Union directive and the Catalan Data Protection Agency dedicated to this area. The approach used to deal with this matter in the so-called old continent is preventive, while in the United States it is attacked directly in court and compensation is established if necessary.

The laws in this area protect all citizens who are in the European Union.regardless of their nationality. In the case of the U.S. country, it only covers U.S. citizens.

One of the most significant differences in the two data protection systems lies in the fact that European countries only make use of the information when strictly necessary and only the essential data are usually taken. In the United States, however, the criteria for collecting information is determined by the interests of the company or institution that requires it. Similarly, the penalties established for offenses of this type in Europe are usually very high, unlike in the United States, where there are no penalties or specific regulations for such offenses.

Expectations at the door

Two situations have caused concerns among those who study and defend data protection of the user on the web. In 2017 the U.S. government of Donald Trump eliminated all privacy rights for non-U.S. citizens. The measure nullifies the so-called Privacy Shield, a treaty established between the United States and Europe, with the aim of protecting data privacy in online commercial transactions.

In addition, the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries may jeopardize the safeguarding of the dataThe objective of the agreement is to promote trade through the elimination of common trade barriers. To achieve this, it is essential that both territories reduce the differences between their legal systems.

Although this matter is still an uncertain terrainEuropean authorities have stated that the rights of citizens to the protection of their private information are not undermined.

Sources consulted