Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

GATS: FACT AND FICTION
Misunderstandings and scare stories:
The WTO and Internet privacy



Following a speech on the need for protection of on-line consumers, made in Washington on 9 January 2001, Mr. Ralph Nader was quoted as saying that "particularly in the area of internet privacy protections, the WTO is forcing governments to forego sovereign privacy protections deemed to be overly restrictive to international trade".

This is difficult to understand. No decision or action on the protection of Internet privacy has ever been taken in the WTO. Far from "forcing governments to forego sovereign privacy protections" (which it would have no power to do in any case), the WTO has had nothing whatever to do with Internet privacy. Moreover, a safeguard for individual privacy is built into the framework of the GATS itself. One of the General Exceptions in Article XIV of the GATS, overriding all other provisions, covers measures Governments might find it necessary to take for "the protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to the processing and dissemination of personal data and the protection of confidentiality of individual records and accounts".

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