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Opinion

Is the U.S. About To Get Its First European-Style Employee Works Council?

By Allen Brandt, CIPP/US, CIPP/E, CIPM

A recent article in The New York Times noted that every one of Volkswagen’s (VW) manufacturing plants in the world has an employee works council except one: the VW plant in Chattanooga, TN. Works councils are popular in VW’s home country of Germany and created by a directive in the European Union. This directive mandates employees have a voice in working with management about working conditions in their environment.

U.S. chief privacy officers (CPOs) and their European counterparts—data protection officers (DPOs)—often work with works councils in many areas but especially in protecting employee privacy. In fact, German DPOs and their corporate works councils have a reputation for being strong defenders in protecting privacy rights. Want to monitor e-mail or social media in the workplace? Centralize your HR records in the U.S.? Or ready to add a whistleblower hotline? The German Works Council Act, for example, empowers the works council to agree or refuse consent of many employee-monitoring devices. All of these require consultation in advance of the organization’s works council, and you can expect to hear a strong statement in support of protecting privacy rights!

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I Don’t Know Which Will Go First—Rock ‘n Roll or Privacy

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

In an otherwise rambling, drunken session at Elektra Studios in 1969, the Doors recorded a blues-backed jam called “Rock is Dead.” Jim Morrison’s Nietzsche-influenced rant on rock’s death has been repeated by other musicians, reviewers and record store employees countless times. Punk is dead. Grunge is dead. Hip hop? Yeah, that too.

But the phrase is not particular to the modern music tradition.

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Opinion

Parallel Privacy Universes and PRISM

The U.S. and Europe seem locked in their own separate, parallel universes in the way they view PRISM and other recent revelations concerning law enforcement data access, as demonstrated by differences in transatlantic media coverage.

Here in Europe, discussion of law enforcement surveillance of electronic communications has dominated the major news media for the last few weeks. By contrast,...

More from Christopher Kuner

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Changing the Conversation: Why Thinking “Data is the New Oil” May Not Be Such a Good Thing

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

Information is power and Big Data is fueling our economy, prompting many to consider data the new oil. Clearly the value of data—particularly personal data—has never been as dynamic, exciting and potentially dangerous as it is now.

But is thinking of data as the new oil really such a good thing?

For data artist Jer Thorpe, the answer is no.

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Careers

Why I Became A Privacy Professional—And What Privacy Means

By Phil Lee, CIPP/E, CIPM

Long before I became a privacy professional, I first graduated with a degree in computer science. At the time, like many graduates, I had little real notion of what it was I wanted to do with my life, so I took a couple of internships working as a database programmer. That was my first introduction to the world of data.

I quickly realized that I had little ambition to remain a career programmer, so I began to look at other professions. In my early twenties, and having the kind of idealistic tendencies commonplace in many young graduates, I decided I wanted to do something that mattered, something that would—in some way—benefit the world: I chose to become a lawyer.

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Opinion

French Court Takes On the Privacy and Hate Speech Dilemma

In my last Perspectives blog post, I discussed how, in order to curtail online hate speech, privacy sometimes needs to take a back seat, as anonymity is often used as a privacy shield by some propagating hate.  While online services can—and sometimes should—require posters to use their real names to discourage hate speech, the U.S. government cannot require the use of real names to fight legally-allowed—even if repugnant—hate speech online because of First Amendment protections for ugly free expression that anonymity promotes.

Such a limitation of government action against anonymity, for those publishing hate speech, does not exist in France, however. An ongoing French case involving Twitter and anti-Semitic tweets raises interesting issues concerning anonymity, privacy and hate speech.

More from Christopher Wolf

Opinion

The Transatlantic Divide Over Data Privacy Rights

The following exchange occurred during a conversation between a representative of a U.S. technology company and a European data protection authority (DPA):

Company representative: Your data protection law is making it impossible for us to offer our technology in Europe!

DPA: It is your technology that has to adapt to our legal system, not the other way around!

The question of whether legal requirements should determine how technology and business models are structured, or whether the law should bend to technological and business imperatives, is at the root of the many of the differences between the EU and U.S. approaches to data privacy. And the differing status of privacy as a constitutional or human right underlies how this question is dealt with in the two systems.

More from Christopher Kuner