APEC leads new initiative for privacy cooperation

Cross-border APEC privacy mechanism, launched Friday, seeks to promote consumer trust in e-commerce by providing platform for cooperation in data privacy law enforcement.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

A new initiative launched Friday by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) aims to boost consumer trust in e-commerce in the Asia-Pacific region. It will do this by providing a platform for the enforcement of data privacy laws through cross-border cooperation.

The APEC Cross-border Privacy Enforcement Arrangement (CPEA) establishes a framework under which participating authorities may contact each other for assistance in collecting evidence and sharing information on an organization or matter under investigation. Privacy authorities can also liaise with one another in the area of enforcing actions and transferring complaints to another jurisdiction, according to a statement from the APEC Secretariat based in Singapore.

The CPEA also facilitates cooperation between privacy enforcement authorities in APEC and their non-APEC counterparts as it is designed to work seamlessly with other regional and global schemes, the APEC Secretariat added.

The arrangement was developed by a volunteer group of APEC member economies comprising Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan and the United States, with input from civic and business groups. There are currently just three CPEA participants--the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Australia; the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand; and the United States Federal Trade Commission.

Colin Minihan, chair of the data privacy subgroup of APEC's Electronic Commerce Steering Group, termed the CPEA "groundbreaking" in the statement.

"It demonstrates that privacy enforcement authorities are engaging with the realities of global data flows and the associated risks of privacy violations that transcend national and jurisdictional boundaries," he said. "The CPEA reflects the commitment of APEC privacy and consumer protection authorities to work together and across borders in enforcing consumer privacy protections."

The Secretariat noted that with such a mechanism in place to help investigate and enforce privacy laws across borders, user trust in e-commerce will be enhanced. This, in turn, will benefit trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

The CPEA, said the organization, is an outcome of the Data Privacy Pathfinder initiative established in 2007 to accelerate the implementation of the APEC Privacy Framework. The Pathfinder initiative involves multiple projects aimed at promoting consumer trust and business confidence with respect to data flows across borders. It also includes general commitments regarding the development of a Cross-Border Privacy Rules system.

The CPEA may in future contribute to the cross-border enforcement of the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules system for businesses, added the APEC Secretariat.

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