GZERO Media logo

The End Of American Digital Exceptionalism?

The End Of American Digital Exceptionalism?

There are negotiations afoot that could soon affect hundreds of billions of dollars in cross-border trade – and guess what: it’s got nothing to do with NAFTA or the escalating trade fight between the US and China. Next month, officials from Washington and Brussels will sit down to review the state of the US-EU Privacy Shield, a data-sharing pact between the US and the European Union that underpins more than $260 billion of annual digital trade between the two regions.

This year’s review is likely to be contentious. Privacy Shield is what allows US companies to handle the personal data of EU citizens, despite US privacy protections not technically being up to snuff under the EU’s strict data rules. Europe isn’t happy with how things are going.

Washington’s lack of progress appointing key privacy officials, the US decision to renew the government’s electronic surveillance authorities without safeguards for EU citizens, and this past spring’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco are all sore points in this year’s review.

The debate over Privacy Shield highlights a broader problem: The US is one of the only major economies that doesn’t directly regulate the flow of information across its borders (as the Europeans do for privacy concerns, and the Chinese and Russians do for reasons of national security). It’s a kind of American exceptionalism that is nearing its sell-by date. US consumers have grown more concerned about privacy following a string of high-profile data breaches and revelations about social media’s role as a conduit for disinformation. A growing number of executives in Silicon Valley, members of Congress, and some in the Trump administration are worried about a confusing and expensive patchwork of data regimes, or fear the US risks becoming a rule taker as other countries like Brazil hew to Europe’s stricter approach.

As the US belatedly wakes up to the need to do more, the fight over who should be regulated and how could get messy. Better data protections would restore the balance of power between the internet giants that profit from personal data and the people who supply it. But rules that force companies to take greater precautions or give users greater control over how firms can use their sensitive data could also make it harder for the next generation of innovative internet companies to compete against industry leaders that can afford the extra burdens of compliance.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

More Show less

"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

More Show less
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal