APEC Privacy 'Stocktake’ on the Horizon; Officials Map APEC, EU Requirements

By Murray Griffin  

Dec. 23 --Officials responsible for developing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's privacy policy are planning a “stocktake” of the APEC Privacy Framework, Australia's Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, told Bloomberg BNA.

The stocktake by APEC's Data Privacy Subgroup “is intended to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the APEC Privacy Framework,” Pilgrim said Dec. 17.

Endorsed by ministers from APEC member economies in 2004 (233 PRA, 12/6/04) and officially launched in 2005, the Privacy Framework sets out nine privacy principles.

The subgroup has already established a working group to determine the scope of the stocktake, and it will commence next year ahead of the 2015 anniversary, according to the Data Privacy Subgroup 2014 work plan.

Mapping Process Continues.

Pilgrim added that the Data Privacy Subgroup is also continuing to work with the European Union on “mapping” the APEC's Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system with the EU binding corporate rules system.

The CBPR system is based on the nine privacy principles set out in the Privacy Framework. APEC leaders pledged to implement the system in a November 2011 declaration (220 PRA, 11/15/11).

“The idea there is to see if they can identify any gaps for the purposes of possible future interoperability between the systems,” Pilgrim said.

The two regimes “are quite different,” he acknowledged, but “both are trying to achieve similar things.”

“The next step is to sit down and identify where are the similarities and where are the gaps if we want to try to move to interoperability,” Pilgrim said. “That will then identify where schemes may need to be varied if interoperability is the key thing that people want to achieve.”

Test CBPR System.

Pilgrim said people shouldn't rush to pass judgment on the APEC CBPR, which so far has only accredited one “accountability agent,” privacy trustmark company TRUSTe Inc., to certify whether organizations are CBPR-compliant.

TRUSTe in turn has certified only two companies--International Business Machines Corp. (159 PRA, 8/16/13) and Merck & Co. (224 PRA, 11/20/13)--as being in compliance with CBPR requirements.

A CBPR website is now operational, which lists accountability agents and certified companies and hosts CBPR documentation, although the site is yet to be officially launched.

“What we need to see is a number of organizations signing up and to see how it operates when you have a number of players,” Pilgrim said of the CBPR regime.

It offers an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to data protection that organizations “shouldn't miss,” he said, adding that the CBPR system is particularly useful given that the region has relatively few traditional regulatory authorities dealing with privacy.

“But the proof will be in the pudding,” he said. “I think there is a fairly solid framework there and we just need to see it put to the test.”

APPA Meetings.

Meanwhile, Pilgrim noted that cross-border data flows are also regularly discussed at meetings of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA), which is not an APEC body.

APPA last met in Sydney in November, with representatives in attendance from economies including Hong Kong, Mexico and South Korea.

An observer from Singapore also attended, as did representatives of several Japanese ministries, Pilgrim said.

Participants at the meeting also discussed privacy issues associated with mobile applications, and the group is considering how it might develop a more coordinated regional response, he said.

Senior executives from Apple Inc. had attended the Sydney APPA meeting to outline the company's approach to privacy generally and to describe the measures they put in place when hosting apps, he said.

Representatives from Facebook Inc. and Nokia Corp. had also attended, Pilgrim said.

APPA's 2014 meeting will be hosted by South Korea.

To contact the reporter on this story: Murray Griffin in Melbourne at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katie W. Johnson at kjohnson@bna.com

Full text of the APEC “CTI Sub-fora's Collective Action Plan/Work Plan,” which includes the 2014 work plan of APEC's Data Privacy Subgroup, is available at http://op.bna.com/pl.nsf/r?Open=dapn-9enj38.

The CBPR website is at http://www.cbprs.org.