Irish High Court refers Facebook case to the CJEU

6. October 2017

On October 3rd 2017, the Irish High Court publicised it will refer the Facebook case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The lawsuit is based on a complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner filed by Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer and privacy activist. Schrems was also involved in the case against Facebook resulting in the CJEU’s landmark decision declaring the Commission’s US Safe Harbour Decision invalid.

In his new complaint, Schrems is challenging the data transfers of Faceook to the US on the basis of the “Model Contracts for the transfer of personal data to third countries”, also known as standard contractual clauses (SCCs). Schrems himself said, “In simple terms, US law requires Facebook to help the NSA with mass surveillance and EU law prohibits just that.”

In contrast to Schrems, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner challenged the validity of the SCCs in general and not only in matters of Facebook. Due to the importance of the case, the Irish High Court referred it to the CJEU. The CJEU will now have to decide whether data transfers to the US are valid on the basis of the Commission’s Model Contracts. It remains to be seen what the CJEU will decide and if its decision will have an impact on the Privacy Shield framework.

Moscow adds facial recognition to its network of surveillance cameras

2. October 2017

Moscow adds facial recognition to its network of 170.000 surveillance cameras across the city to be able to identify criminals and boost security, Bloomberg reports. The camera surveillance started in 2012. The recordings of the camera surveillance system have been held for five days after they are captured, with an amount of 20 million hours of video material stored at any one time. “We soon found it impossible to process such volumes of data by police officers alone,” Artem Ermolaev, who is Head of the Department of Information Technology in Moscow, said according to Bloomberg. “We needed an artificial intelligence to help find what we are looking for.”, he further said.

A Russian start-up, named N-Tech.Lab Ltd designed the facial recognition technology. The start-up is known for its mobile app FindFace which was released last year. With FindFace it is possible to search for users of the Russian social network VKontakte by making a picture of a person’s face and match it against the user profiles of VKontakte.

However, due to high costs the face recognition technology should not be deployed to every camera and therefore only be installed selectively within specific districts where it is needed the most. To maintain the camera surveillance, the Moscow government already should spend about $ 86 million a year and this amount would triple if every camera would use the new facial recognition technology.

The new technology is used to cross-reference images captured by the cameras with those from the Interior Ministry’s database.

Measures to strengthen the EU cybersecurity published

27. September 2017

On September 13, 2017 a joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on “Resilience, Deterrence and Defence: Building strong cybersecurity for the EU” was published. This should strengthen the EU regarding the response of cyber attacks.

The joint communication includes:

  • Greater EU resilience to cyber attacks
  • Better detect cyber attacks
  • Strengthen international cooperation on cybersecurity

and is part of a package of EU documents.

Spain imposes fine against Facebook

13. September 2017

The Spanish Data Protection Authority imposes a fine of €1,2m against Facebook. The social media network collects Personal Data of the users without a permission for this.

The responsible Data Protection Authority considers that Facebook collects personal information like gender, religious attitudes, personal preferences and personal beliefs without informing the persons concerned about the concrete use of this data.

The Data Protection Authority criticizes the unclear wording of Facebooks privacy policy. Moreover Facebook uses the personal data for advertising purposes without a permission. This constitutes a breach against Spanish Data Protection law.

Furthermore Facebook recognizes as well third party pages the user is referred if he clicks on links and illegally tracks visitors who are not Facebook users.

Finally is criticized that Facebook does not remove data, if a user unsubscribe the network. The collected information is stored for month even if the user terminates its account.

Not only Spain started an investigation against Facebook and imposes a fine as well as Spain also Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands are investigating against Facebook due to breaches against the local Data Protection law.

Credit Bureau Equifax has been hacked

11. September 2017

The consumer credit reporting agency Equifax has been hacked in the middle of May. The operators have noticed the breach much later, on 29th July. The public has learned about the breach just last week on Thursday, 7th September.

The breach potentially affects the sensitive data of approximately 143 million consumers. Data concerned are the consumer’s name, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and in some cases driver’s license numbers. As well as credit card numbers for 209.000 U.S. consumers and other dispute documents that contained identifying information for 182.000 consumers.

Not only the US is concerned. A hired third-party cybersecurity company also found some residents of the U.K. and Canada.

The Equifax Chairman and CEO Rick Smith announced steps Equifax is taking at the moment to respond on the breach and is working with authorities.

Category: Data breach · General · USA
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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.

India’s Supreme Court rules that privacy is a fundamental right

29. August 2017

In the past few years, India’s government aimed to build up the world’s largest biometric database, named Aadhaar. So far, more than a billion citizens have been registered to the identity programme, whereby eye scans and fingerprints are collected. In order to make sure that all citizens registered to the Aadhaar database, the government restricted access to government services for those who are not part of the database.

Critics expressed concerns about the implications of possible future data breaches, jeopardising the privacy of more than a billion Indians. It was also feared that the Indian government could use the database for surveillance purposes.

Last week, a nine-member panel of India’s Supreme Court ruled that a right to privacy is a part of article 21 of the Constitution of India. This historic ruling could result in the abrogation of the mandatory enrolment to the Aadhaar database. Furthermore, any future laws aiming at restricting privacy, will now “have to be tested on the touchstone of article 21”. It remains to be seen whether the ruling will also have lasting effects on the civil liberties and the daily life of Indians.

Cifas: Identity theft at epidemic level

24. August 2017

According to BBC.com, 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.

BBC.com 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.

Roskomnadzor publishes privacy guidelines for data operator

17. August 2017

The Russian data protection authority Roskomnadzor published guidelines for data operators on the drafting of privacy policies on July 31.

Russian data operators must adopt a privacy policy to comply with Russian data protection law. The policy must describe how they process of personal data. This policy shall be published online if personal data is collected online. In case of collecting personal data offline an unrestricted access to the policy has to be guaranteed.

The policy shall be detailed so that data subjects are aware of all potential actions.

According to the guidance the policy must contain in general the following information:

  • main purpose of the policy and definitions used in the policy
  • main rights and obligations of the data operator and data subjects,
  • purposes for personal data processing,
  • legal grounds for personal data processing
  • volume and categories of personal data processed. For each category of data subjects, Roskomnadzor recommends that a company list all the personal data it collects and processes tied to specific purposes and indicate all cases of processing special categories of personal data or biometric data,
  • procedures and conditions for personal data processing,
  • procedures for updating, correcting, deleting, or destroying personal data and
  • procedures for responding to data subjects’ requests.

In addition the guideline regulates the case of sharing personal data with third parties. The data operator has to explain the taken measures to protect personal data and beside the purpose of sharing, the volume of personal data to be transferred, the data use restrictions and security measures. Furthermore the name and the address of the the third party need to be published in the policy.

Finally it shall be mentioned that the guidance is recommendatory nature and non-binding. Nonetheless data operators should strongly take these recommendations into account if they develop new privacy policies to be compliant with the Personal Data Law.

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