Category: General Data Protection Regulation

WP29 Guidelines on the notion of consent according to the GDPR – Part 1

26. January 2018

According to the GDPR, consent is one of the six lawful bases mentioned in Art. 6. In order for consent to be valid and compliant with the GDPR it needs to reflect the data subjects real choice and control.

The Working Party 29 (WP 29) clarifies and specifies the “requirements for obtaining and demonstrating” such a valid consent in its Guidelines released in December 2017.

The guidelines start off with an analysis of Article 4 (11) of the GDPR and then discusses the elements of valid consent. Referring to the Opinion 15/2011 on the definition of consent, “obtaining consent also does not negate or in any way diminish the controller’s obligations to observe the principles of processing enshrined in the GDPR, especially Article 5 of the GDPR with regard to fairness, necessity and proportionality, as well as data quality.”

The WP29 illustrates the elements of valid consent, such as the consent being freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. For example, a consent is not considered as freely given if a mobile app for photo editing requires the users to have their GPS location activated simply in order to collect behavioural data aside from the photo editing. The WP29 emphasizes that consent to processing of unnecessary personal data “cannot be seen as a mandatory consideration in exchange for performance.”

Another important aspect taken into consideration is the imbalance of powers, e.g. in the matter of public authorities or in the context of employment. “Consent can only be valid if the data subject is able to exercise a real choice, and there is no risk of deception, intimidation, coercion or significant negative consequences (e.g. substantial extra costs) if he/she does not consent. Consent will not be free in cases where there is any element of compulsion, pressure or inability to exercise free will. “

Art. 7(4) GDPR emphasizes that the performance of a contract is not supposed to be conditional on consent to the processing of personal data that is not necessary for the performance of the contract. The WP 29 states that “compulsion to agree with the use of personal data additional to what is strictly necessary limits data subject’s choices and stands in the way of free consent.” Depending on the scope of the contract or service, the term “necessary for the performance of a contract… …needs to be interpreted strictly”. The WP29 lays down examples of cases where the bundling of situations is acceptable.

If a service involves multiple processing operations or multiple purposes, the data subject should have the freedom to choose which purpose they accept. This concept of granularity requires the purposes to be separated and consent to be obtained for each purpose.

Withdrawal of consent has to be possible without any detriment, e.g. in terms of additional costs or downgrade of services. Any other negative consequence such as deception, intimidation or coercion is also considered to be invalidating. The WP29 therefore suggests controllers to ensure proof that consent has been given accordingly.

(will be soon continued in Part 2)

French Data Protection Commission threatens WhatsApp with sanctions

21. December 2017

The French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) has found violations of the French Data Protection Act in the course of an investigation conducted in order to verify compliance of WhatsApps data Transfer to Facebook with legal requirements.

In 2016, WhatsApp had announced to transfer data to Facebook for the purpose of targeted advertising, security and business intelligence (technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help executives, managers and other corporate end users make informed business decisions).

Immediately after the announcement, the Working Party 29 (an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy, set up under Article 29 of Directive 95/46/EC; hereinafter referred to as „WP29“) asked the company to stop the data transfer for targeted advertising as French law doesn’t provide an adequate legal basis.

„While the security purpose seems to be essential to the efficient functioning of the application, it is not the case for the “business intelligence” purpose which aims at improving performances and optimizing the use of the application through the analysis of its users’ behavior.“

In the wake of the request, WhatsApp had assured the CNIL that it does not process the data of French users for such purposes.

However, the CNIL currently not only came to the result that the users’ consent was not validly collected as it lacked two essential aspects of data protection law: specific function and free choice. But it also denies a legitimate interest when it comes to preserving fundamental rights of users based on the fact that the application cannot be used if the data subjects refuse to allow the processing.

WhatsApp has been asked to provide a sample of the French users’ data transferred to Facebook, but refused to do so because being located in die United States, „it considers that it is only subject to the legislation of this country.“

The inspecting CNIL thus has issued a formal notice to WhatsApp and again requested to comply with the requirements within one month and states:

„Should WhatsApp fail to comply with the formal notice within the specified timescale, the Chair may appoint an internal investigator, who may draw up a report proposing that the CNIL’s restricted committee responsible for examining breaches of the Data Protection Act issue a sanction against the company.“


WP29: Guideline for profiling and automated decision-making

19. October 2017

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP29) adopted a guideline for the automated individual decision-making and profiling which are addressed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR will be applicable from the 25th May 2018. WP29 acknowledges that “profiling and automated decision-making can be useful for individuals and organisations as well as for the economy and society as a whole”. “Increased efficiencies” and “resource savings” are two examples that were named.

However, it was also stated that “profiling and automated decision-making can pose significant risks for individuals’ rights and freedoms which require appropriate safeguards”. One risk could be that profiling may “perpetuate existing stereotypes and social segregation”.

The Guideline covers inter alia definitions of profiling and automated decision-making as well as the general approach of the GDPR to these. It is addressed that the GDPR introduces provisions to ensure that the use of profiling and automated decision-making does not have an “unjustified impact on individuals’ rights” and names examples, such as “specific transparency and fairness requirements” and “greater accountability obligations”.

UK government introduced Data Protection Bill

13. October 2017

The UK government introduced the Data Protection Bill to implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR – 2016/679).

The GDPR enters into force on 25th May 2018 in the European Union. After the brexit, until now it was unclear if the UK would implement the GDPR into UK domestic law. The Data Protection Bill implements not only the legal requirements of the GDPR. The Law Enforcement Directive (2016/680) and the standards of the Council of Europe’s draft modernized Convention 108 on processing of personal data carried out by the intelligence services will also be adopted in the new Data Protection Law of the UK.

The new Law will replace the existing UK Data Protection Act 1998.

Currently the bill is at the beginning of the parliamentary process. The first reading in the House of Lords was held on 13th September, the second on 10th October. The bill consist of seven parts and 18 Schedules.

The data flow between European countries and the UK will not cause those problems that caused concerns after the Brexit, because the data protection level in Europe and the UK will be equal.

New Zealand: Police uses backdoor in law to gather private data

5. September 2017

According to the New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties, in several cases private data was handed over by banks to the police, after the police requested these data from them. It is further explained that the police used forms that looked official, instead of applying to a judge for a search warrant or examination. The police should neither have an oversight, nor a register which tracks the amount of filed requests.

The Police and banks rely on a legal loophole in the Privacy Act that allows organisations to reveal information about persons in order “to avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law”. The Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is willing to end the further use of this backdoor. Referring to the case of handing over the private information of activist and journalist Martyn Bradbury, he said:

“…we concluded that Police had collected this information in an unlawful way by asking for such sensitive information without first putting the matter before a judicial officer. Our view is that this was a breach of Principle 4 of the Privacy Act, which forbids agencies from collecting information in an unfair, unreasonable or unlawful way.”

New Data Protection Act in Austria

31. August 2017

In regards to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), coming into force on 25th May 2018, the Austrian Parliament has passed the new Data Protection Act.

The GDPR is directly applicable which means that the GDPR will regulate the data protection within the European Union, without the need for any transposing act of the member states. Nevertheless the GDPR contains a certain amount of opening clauses. Opening clauses enable the countries to complete the law. Moreover, in some cases, the member states are obliged to provide specifications. Because of this reasons the member states have to revise the existing Data Protection Law. The first country with renewed law was Germany and now Austria follows.

The first draft of the new act was published on 12th May 2017. After evaluating the results of the consultation the new Data Protection Act was published in the federal law gazette on 31st July 2017.

It is noticeable that the Austrian parliament has been reticent with deviations from the GDPR which benefits the harmonization of data protection within the European Union.

Cifas: Identity theft at epidemic level

24. August 2017

According to, the fraud prevention group Cifas warns that cases of identity theft increase year by year in the UK. In the first six months of the year Cifas already recorded 89,000 cases, which is a 5% increase in relation to the same period of the last year and a new record. further reports that Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas, said: “We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year, now reaching epidemic levels, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day.” It is further explained that “these frauds are taking place almost exclusively online. The vast amounts of personal data that is available either online or through data breaches is only making it easier for the fraudster.”

Fraudsters are targeting data such as the name, address, date of birth or bank account details. They gather these data by hacking computers, stealing mails or buying data through the “dark web”. Also, victims are tricked into giving away their personal data. However, most of the thefts, about 80%, are committed online and mostly without notice of the victims. The crimes often come to light, when for example the first random bill arrives.

The victims of impersonation were breaked down into categories of ages, showing that it is most likely that people in their 30s and 40s are victims of identity thefts, since about this group of people often a high amount of information was gathered online. It is further reported that according to Cifas, the amount of cases fell for the group of over-60s, while the group of 21 to 30 years old showed the biggest increase of cases.

India: Is the “right to privacy” a fundamental human right?

4. August 2017

The Indian Supreme Court has to decide if the “right to privacy” should be considered a fundamental human right.

According to the Wire, a bench of nine justices was set up after several petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of India’s Aadhaar scheme, with some petitioners claiming that the biometric authentication system is a violation of the privacy of Indians. The bench examined over the last two weeks the nature of privacy as a right in context of two earlier judgements. Back in 1954 and 1962 these judgements came to the conclusion that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right. Legal experts expect the judgement in the last week of August.

Times of India reports that the Supreme Court outlined a three-tier graded approach to examine the question whether privacy can be considered as a fundamental right. The Bench therefore configures privacy into three zones. As stated by a justice of the Bench, the first zone could be the most intimate zone concerning for example marriage or sexuality. The state should only intrude this zone under “extraordinary circumstances provided it met stringent norms”.

The second zone would be the private zone. This zone could involve personal data like the use of credit card or the income tax declaration. In this zone, “sharing of personal data by an individual will be used only for the purpose for which it is shared by an individual”, it is further said.

The third zone would be the public zone. This zone should require only minimal regulation. However, that should not mean that the individual would lose the right of privacy, but “retain his privacy to body and mind”.


Article 29 WP releases opinion on data processing at work

11. July 2017

The Article 29 Working Party (WP) has released their opinion on data processing at work on the 8th of June 2017. The Opinion is meant as an amendment to the previous released documents on the surveillance of electronic communications (WP 55) and processing personal data in employment context (WP 48). This update should face the fast-changing technologies, the new forms of processing and the fading boundaries between home and work. It not only covers the Data Protection Directive but also the new rules in the General Data Protection Regulation that goes into effect on 25th of May 2018.

Therefore they listed nine different scenarios in the employment context where data processing can lead to a lack in data protection. These scenarios are data processing in the recruitment process and in-employment screening (especially by using social media platforms), using monitoring tools for information and communication technologies (ICT), usage at home/remote, using monitoring for time and attendance, use of video monitoring, use of vehicles by employees, the disclosure of data to third parties and the international transfer of employee data.

The Article 29 WP also pointed out the main risk for the fundamental rights of the employees. New technologies allow the employer tracking over a long time and nearly everywhere in a less visible way. This can result into chilling effects on the rights of employees because they think of a constant supervision.

As a highlight the Article 29 WP gives the following recommendations for dealing with data processing in the employment context:

  • only collect the data legitimate for the purpose and only with processing taking place under appropriate conditions,
  • consent is highly unlike to be a legal base for data processing, because of the imbalance in power between the employer and the employee,
  • track the location of employees only where it is strictly necessary,
  • communicate every monitoring to your employees effectively,
  • do a proportionality check prior the deployment of any monitoring tool,
  • be more concerned with prevention than with detection,
  • keep in mind data minimization; only process the data you really need to,
  • create privacy spaces for users,
  • on cloud uses: Ensure an adequate level of protection on every international transfer of employee data.

Many companies have not started preparing for the GDPR

27. June 2017

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be applicable to all EU Member States from May 25th 2018. The GDPR will not just apply to EU companies, but also to non-EU companies that have dealings with data subjects that are located in the EU (see also Art. 3 (2) GDPR).

Companies, in specific, that fall under the regulations of the GDPR should be prepared to fulfil the requirements that are stated by the GDPR, due to the risk of an imposition of a fine if they fail to comply with the GDPR. This is in particular relevant since the fines for infringements of the GDPR have increased significantly (see also Art. 83 GDPR).

The implementations that companies have to make to comply with the GDPR involve high expenses and probably will be more time consuming than expected in most cases, depending on the size and complexity of the company. Especially the time factor has to be considered since it is less than a year left until May 2018.

However, according to a report of TrustArc, 61 % of the asked companies have not yet started with the implementation of their GDPR compliance programs.

TrustArc interviewed 204 privacy professionals from companies of different industries that will fall under the GDPR. These companies were divided into three categories based on the count of their employees: 500-1000 employees, 1000-5000 employees and more than 5000 employees.

23 % stated that they have started with the necessary implementations, 11 % that the implementations are driven forward and just 4 % stated that they had finished all necessary implementations to reach GDPR compliance.

The Report also shows the cost that companies expect to be need to implement what will be necessary to comply with the GDPR. Overall, 83% expect that their expenses will be in the six figures.

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