U.S. Law Students' Chance to Shape Privacy Law and Expose European Hypocrisy

By Joel Brenner
Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 5:16 PM

Many of us on this side of the Atlantic have believed for a long time that citizens’ data is protected as well or better from government access in the United States than it is in Europe, notwithstanding the extraordinary and emotional contrary narrative spurred by the Snowden revelations. Europeans nevertheless continue to challenge U.S. procedures for protecting information. In at least one respect, their position has merit: European citizens have heretofore had no standing to challenge alleged abuse of their data in this country. It appears that may be about to change.

In general, however, the myth that the U.S. government finds it easier to access citizens’ data than do EU governments persists, and the current dust-up over “Safe Harbor,” which the European Court of Justice invalidated, reinforces it. Jay Cline of PwC has a proposal to return the favor, and it bears serious consideration. Americans, he suggests, should start "a lawsuit in Europe against a European government, alleging that it is violating her rights through its surveillance using the same rationale laid out in the ECJ decision.” Cline agrees that "European personal data stored in the U.S. is probably safer from U.S. surveillance than that same data stored in some European countries.”

Let’s test this proposition. Law students! This project is calling you!