The Choice for U.S. Regulators: Follow China or EU?

Congress has taken notice of social media. That’s how it starts.

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

This seems to be the year when Americans hit the pause button on the advance of technology in their daily lives and grapple with how we got here and where we’re going.

My Bloomberg colleague Tyler Cowen has written about a looming clash between the values of Washington, D.C., and the values of the San Francisco Bay Area. They are indeed quite different cultures, and as each considers the future of tech, they will find models outside the U.S.: the European style, and the Chinese approach.

The European model came up in Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress. While Silicon Valley might be the global leader in technological innovation, when it comes to regulating said innovation, Europe is ahead of us. Germany already has laws in place requiring much stricter monitoring of content on Facebook than exists in the U.S. The big new framework in the European Union will be the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This will set new standards for how corporations collect and use personal data from users. It will also give users more control over their personal data — giving them access to it, and perhaps eventually allowing them to exchange their data with third parties.

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