… data theft is not a major problem in Britain, Germany or France. One reason may be that European countries have a comprehensive set of national privacy laws and an office of data protection, led by a privacy commissioner. The United States, by contrast, has a patchwork of state and federal laws and various agencies responsible for data protection.
The flip side, of this, is that there is far less government information available here in Europe:
In general, Americans are far more comfortable than Europeans with businesses’ handling their information and far more skeptical of putting it in government hands. The tradition of making government records — like tax records, mortgage information and census data — easily accessible to the public is uniquely American.
This has helped create the world’s largest data-collection industry by far.
“In Europe, there is much less use of data warehousing and data mining because the culture has not been friendly to it,” said Alan Westin, director of Privacy Exchange, an advocacy group sponsored by the consumer data industry. “No company in France, Germany or the U.K. has that kind of data-mining capability, because they don’t have the public record and census data” that American companies have.
Restrictions on the commercial use of private data also have meant that data-mining interest groups never became entrenched in Europe.