One of the challenges businesses face when operating internationally is maintaining compliance with the regulatory patchwork of consumer privacy and data protection requirements that exist around the world. GDPR does offer the advantage of consistency across EU member nations, but companies based in the United States must still face the challenges of determining whether GDPR applies to their business, and if so, developing and adopting a comprehensive compliance program dedicated to GDPR –– a set of regulations which differs in important ways from consumer data privacy protections in the United States.
One of the largest of these challenges consists simply in recognizing that GDPR may apply to American companies. Particularly for businesses that operate partly or primarily online, websites and other digitally-networked means of communication open the door to EU customers –– which means that they also have the potential to expose businesses to legal consequences for failure to comply with GDPR requirements, even if the organization does not maintain a physical presence within a European Union member state. A 2021 analysis by Zendata of 1,000 websites maintained by companies in the United States found that 67% fell short on GDPR compliance.
The European Union’s GDPR Checklist for US Companies can be a helpful first resource for many American companies starting their GDPR compliance journey, but the complexity of EU guidelines and the ways in which the European regulatory system differs from that prevailing in the United States makes it advisable to work with experienced counsel offering targeted guidance and assistance in creating a comprehensive compliance program designed to satisfy both European consumers and regulatory authorities. Developing –– and demonstrating –– a strict protocol for maintaining GDPR compliance is one of the most important and effective strategies for American businesses to minimize unnecessary legal exposure.
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