Category: USA

U.S. Negotiators clarify EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

19. July 2016

Recently, the European online newspaper POLITICO published an interview conducted with the two lead U.S. negotiators of the Privacy Shield: Justin Antonipillai, counselor to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and acting undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs, and Ted Dean, a deputy assistant secretary in the department.

Antonipillai explained the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield as “a program to allow companies to transfer data from the EU to the U.S. in a way that meets requirements under European privacy laws”. He remarked that the main objective of the Privacy Shield is to make both, companies and EU citizens, confident that the requirements to transfer personal data are being meet.

He also explained how American and European different methodologies to ensure privacy and data protection have converged in order to agree on the Privacy Shield. According to Antonipillai, an important fact is that companies are certifying and following the principles voluntarily.

Dean also recognizes that the Privacy Shield may be challenged in court. But he adds that the current framework has been built up and discussed with EU Institutions and European DPAs and there is an interest from both sides on a long-term duration of the new framework. Finally, he stated that the impact of the “Brexit” on international personal data transfers cannot be predicted in advance.

EU Commission announces formal adoption of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

13. July 2016

The EU Commission announced yesterday the formal adoption of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. Both, the EU Commission Vice-President, Andrus Ansip, and the EU Commissioner Vera Jourová highlighted the positive impact of the Privacy Shield not only for businesses, but especially for EU citizens, whose right to data protection will be enforced and several mechanisms will implemented in order to safeguard their rights.

The main aspects of the final draft of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield are:

  • U.S. companies handling EU personal data will be subject to stricter obligations. For instance, the American Department of Commerce will review regularly that the participating companies comply in practice with the commitments of the Privacy Shield. In case of incompliance, the company will face not only fines, but will be also removed from the list.
  • The U.S. has ensured that bulk collection of EU citizens’ data will be carried out only if certain conditions are met and it will be as targeted and focused as possible. Also, a redress mechanism will be available for EU citizens to solve this kind of issues.
  • Individual rights will be effectively protected through the implementation of dispute resolution mechanisms, which will be affordable and accessible for EU citizens. In case that the dispute is not resolved, an arbitration mechanism will be also available. If the dispute refers to U.S. national security Authorities, an independent Ombudsperson will handle the issue.
  • The Privacy Shield will be subject to an annual review by the EU Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce in order to monitor its functioning.

Next steps

The Privacy Shield constitutes an “adequacy decision”. This decision has been notified to the EU Member States by the EU Commission and will enter into force immediately. Additionally, it will also be published on the U.S. Official Journal.

Starting August 1st, the U.S. Department of Commerce will start processing membership requests. This means that companies that wish to certify and become members of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield will have to review and if appropriate update their privacy programs.

Furthermore, the EU Commission will publish a guidance in order to inform EU citizens about the dispute resolution mechanisms available under the Privacy Shield.

What happens with the GDPR?

The GDPR lays down stricter requirements to carry out international data transfers than those of the Privacy Shield. As the GDPR will enter into force in two years, U.S. companies will have to be compliant also with the requirements of the GDPR.

However, this situation has been already addressed in two directions: on the one hand, the Privacy Shield will be subject to an annual review, as mentioned above; and on the other hand, the Privacy Shield states that its scope of application refers to data transfers and processing of personal data by U.S. companies as far as the processing does not fall under the scope of EU legislation.

Agreement by EU and U.S. negotiators on final changes on the Privacy Shield

28. June 2016

After several months of negotiations regarding the legitimating instruments to carry out international data transfers, EU and U.S. negotiators agreed last week on the final changes of the proposed EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

The initial draft of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield was criticized by several European Institutions such as the Article 29 WP, the EDPS, Article 31 WP and the UK Data Protection Authority (ICO) for not offering enough safeguards for EU citizens regarding the protection of their personal data upon data transfers to the U.S.

The main critic of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield was focused on the independency of the ombudsman and on the massive surveillance activities from American Authorities. Additionally, a follow up control mechanism regarding compliance with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield was required by European negotiators.

EU and U.S. negotiators have agreed to improve the above mentioned aspects in order to ensure more guarantees on the protection of EU citizens’ personal data:

  • The White House committed in writing to collect EU personal data only under certain circumstances and for targeted purposes.
  • Data retention periods have been defined concretely: organizations will be obliged to delete personal data that is no longer needed for the purposes for which it was originally collected.
  • The proposal will include a specification that the ombudsman will be an independent institution.

As a next step, the Article 31 WP, made up of representatives of the EU Member States, will decide if the amended text complies with European Data Protection legislation. Both, the EU Commission and the U.S. Government hope that the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield enters into force by August 2016.

Implications for the UK

After UK citizens have voted to leave the EU, a two-year-negotiation between the EU and the UK Government will take place. During this time, UK organizations will have to comply with European legislation, also regarding international data transfers. When the UK ceases to be an EU Member State, it will be considered as being a third country in terms of international data transfers and will have to ensure enough safeguards regarding the protection of personal data.

German DPA fines three companies for illegal data transfer to the U.S.

7. June 2016

The Data Protection Authority of Hamburg just announced in a press statement that it checked the data transfers of 35 international organizations that are based in Hamburg.

After the judgment declaring the former Safe Harbor Framework by the European Commission invalid  in October 2015 by the European Court of Justice, the DPA contacted organizations in Hamburg operating also in the U.S. and reviewed the transfer of personal data to the U.S. in order to determine whether other instruments are used than the Safe Harbor Framework. According to the mentioned press statement, the review has revelied that the majority of the companies had changed the legal basis of their transfers of data by implementing standard contractual clauses (SCC).

However, according to a report by Spiegel Online, there were three companies that did not change their legal basis for data transfer. Therefore, the three companies were fined:

Adobe (8.000 Euros), Punica (9.000 Euros) and Unilever (11.000 Euros)

As all three companies have changed the legal basis for data transfering during the proceeding, the DPA imposed a fine that was significantly smaller than the maximum of 300.000 Euros.

 

 

Further developments regarding EU-U.S. data transfers: the “Umbrella-Agreement” has been signed

6. June 2016

On the 2nd June, the so called “Umbrella-Agreement” was signed between the EU and the U.S. This agreement aims at creating a cooperation framework between the EU and the U.S. regarding criminal law enforcement and the prevention of serious crime and terrorism.

Personal data covered under this agreement includes data exchanged between police and criminal Authorities of the EU Member States and the US Authorities for the purpose of prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences as well as terrorist acts. The data transfers will be carried out according to the existing legal frameworks and enough safeguards will be provided.

The agreement provides EU citizens an equal treatment with U.S. citizens before American courts regarding judicial redress and a full respect for fundamental rights.

However, this agreement does not provide a legal basis for data transfers but it is a complement to the existing and future frameworks between law enforcement authorities.

Renegotiation of the Privacy Shield

1. June 2016

The European Parliament approved a resolution concerning the European Commission reopening negotiations with US authorities on the EU-US Privacy Shield last week. Furthermore, the resolution intends to implement the recommendations of the Article 29 Working Party on the draft Privacy Shield adequacy decision.

The resolution that was approved by the majority of members of the European Parliament says that the executive still needs to improve the data transfer deal allowing US authorities to collect EU citizens’ data.

Although the Parliament’s opinion is not binding, it builds up pressure on the Commission in order to increase the level of data protection in the much discussed agreement.

After the Safe Harbour agreement was declared invalid last October due to the fact that it did not protect European citizens’ data once they were sent to the USA, the executive is now behind schedule as EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova and Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger initially stated that the new agreement should go into effect by the end of June. However, in order for that to happen a group of diplomats from European member states have to sign their approval first. Nevertheless, although the diplomats were expected to vote on the Privacy Shield last week, they delayed their final decision as they scheduled new meetings up until the end of June.

Generally, the Commission has already finished the negotiations concerning the Privacy Shield with US authorities, though clarification on some points is needed. Commission spokesman Christian Wigand described the clarifications as realistic changes and not a drastic renegotiation of the agreement.

However, the Parliament’s resolution intends to take criticism from national privacy protectors of the European member states “fully” into account.

Category: EU · Safe Harbor · USA
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USA: Is the government able to require users to unlock smartphones via fingerprints?

25. May 2016

Most of the market leaders in smartphone manufacturing have been developing fingerprint sensors as a security measure in order to protect the smartphone against unauthorized access. However, legal complications might force them to reconsider this security measure.

As NBC reported, a woman in California was compelled by a search warrant to unlock her iPhone via fingerprint in February. Some experts say, that this falls in a legal gray area.

Although it has not been clarified why the FBI wanted the iPhone of the woman in California, as the search warrant did not specify the reason the FBI wanted access to the phone, only that it was granted. The smartphone, however, was found in the home of the boyfriend, who is a suspected gang member, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April.

Is there a difference in opening the smartphone via passcode and via fingerprint?

Neil Richards, a privacy law professor at Washington University, said that opening the smartphone with a passcode violates the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, whereas the use of a fingerprint provides law enforcement some legal cover. He went on “Most people don’t draw a distinction between a fingerprint and a password, but the law does”.  The problem is due to the fact that the laws have been made before smartphones were invented. According to the respected law, it is allowed to collect physical evidence during the course of an arrest, such as DNA evidence or fingerprints. Therefore, typing a passcode, for example 1-2-3-4, in order to access a smartphone counts as testimonial whereas the fingerprint sensor that also opens the smartphone, only with biometric data instead of a password, can be seen as physical evidence.

Due to the fact that eight people are killed and 1,161 are injured every day in the USA as a result of distracted driving, there is the discussion to implement a test for texting while driving. As the New York times reported that the state legislature considers roadside tests called the Textalyzer. Police officers would be able to plug a cellphone into a laptop and determine if it was used while driving. However, in case a police officer looks at the content of a phone the Textalyzer could cause a number of privacy problems.

Richards concluded “They’re going to start thinking twice about nudging people toward just using fingerprints. It is secure against private parties, but under current law, it’s not as secure against the government.”

 

Category: USA
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Update EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: Article 31 needs more time to consider the implications of the proposal

23. May 2016

On the 19th May, the Article 31 Committee, made up of representatives of the EU Member States, met in order to discuss the implications of the proposed draft of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The Article 31 was created in order to reach decisions that require the approval of the EU Member States according to the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. This is the case, for example of the adoption of adequacy decisions, such as Safe Harbor in the past or the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield currently.

Article 31 concluded that it needed more time to reach a decision about the proposal. Moreover, a source of the Commission affirmed that further meetings in May and early June will take place. Also, the recommendations of the Article 29 WP are being taken into consideration before reaching a decision.

The decision of the Article 31 is expected by the end of June. The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield can be only adopted if a qualified majority of 16 Member States representing 65 percent of the EU population votes for the adoption of the Privacy Shield.

Until a decision is reached, Standard Contractual Clauses and Binding Corporate Rules can still be used to carry out international data transfers on a legal basis.

Twitter blocks U.S. Intelligence Agencies from Dataminr service

10. May 2016

Dataminr is used as a tool that analyzes and traces social media posts and notifies users about breaking news in real time, such as the terror attack in Brussel´s airport in March. This analysis is carried out by using key words, patterns, or geotags.

Twitter, that owns 5% of Dataminr, has now blocked U.S. intelligence services from its Dataminr service, in order not to appear to support the surveillance activities of the U.S. Intelligence services.

Dataminr services where used by the American Government in 2013 to detect any risks on the inauguration of U.S. President Obama´s second term. However, it is not clear how Dataminr provided this service to the U.S. Intelligence services, as Twitter´s privacy policy prohibits selling its data to governmental agencies.

Category: General · USA
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U.S. House of Representatives passes Email Privacy Bill

29. April 2016

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday about the Email Privacy Bill. The bill aims at updating the current Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) from 1986. Under the ECPA, U.S. Authorities can access email communications directly from service providers with just a subpoena, if data is more than 180 old. However, under the new Email Privacy Act, they will need furthermore a warrant to access emails or other electronic communications no matter how old they are.

Currently, access to electronic communications from U.S. authorities is being subject to debate at an international level. Specially, after some weeks ago the FBI requested Apple to develop a software that allows to extract data from an iPhone device that belonged to the San Bernardino terrorist.

The Email Privacy Bill will have to be voted by the Senate, but the position of the upper chamber towards the bill is still not clear.

Category: USA
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