The growth of the digital economy has exposed consumers to an unprecedented level of risk regarding personal privacy.

Internet Privacy Quick Facts

- US companies made over $42bn in 2013 from customer data

- EU privacy laws are stronger than in the US

- EU reviewing whether data is protected when transferred to the US

- EU to bring in new data protection law in 2018 with companies like Google given up to two years to comply

Data that consumers plug into various websites in the digital world is used to sell them products in the form of personalised marketing. Companies in the United States made over $42bn from peddling customer data to online sellers in 2013. 

The European Union poses much harsher internet privacy laws than the US, especially concerning the protection of consumer data and even in terms of social media activity, with Facebook and Google both facing heavier restrictions in Europe.

According to the official hosting government website, the Privacy Shield programme is an agreement made between the "US Department of Commerce and the European Commission and Swiss Administration, respectively, to provide companies on both sides of the Atlantic with a mechanism to comply with data protection requirements when transferring personal data from the European Union and Switzerland to the United States in support of transatlantic commerce." 

The programme is currently under review by the EU to ensure it is working to the best possible protection of its citizens, with a new law set to be implemented in 2018. The law will entail that all consumers must provide explicit permission for companies to use any data provided by them online. 

Kristina Irion is a senior researcher at the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam and is supportive of the EU's consumer data protection measures.

"We should consider that in today's world, where personal data is the essence of almost all economic activity, we need such protections to be robust and in place. That in the European Union, data protection is a fundamental right is an extremely modern approach and is the right answer to the challenges of the future with personal data," she told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera News