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Iowa Law Review

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The confluence of plans for an Information Superhighway, actual industry self-regulatory practices, and international pressure dictate renewed consideration of standard setting for fair information practices in the U.S. private sector. The legal rules, industry norms, and business practices that regulate the treatment of personal information in the United States are organized in a wide and dispersed manner. This Article analyzes how these standards are established in the U.S. private sector. Part I argues that the U.S. standards derive from the influence of American political philosophy on legal rule making and a preference for dispersed sources of information standards. Part II examines the aggregation of legal rules, industry norms, and business practice from these various decentralized sources. Part III ties the deficiencies back to the underlying U.S. philosophy and argues that the adherence to targeted standards has frustrated the very purposes of the narrow, ad hoc regulatory approach to setting private sector standards. Part IV addresses the irony that European pressure should force the United States to revisit the setting of standards for the private sector.

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