Category: EU

ICO fines Regal Chambers Surgery with 40,000 GBP

12. August 2016

The ICO fines Regal Chambers Surgery with 40,000 GBP due to the fact that personal medical information was handed out.

Regal Chambers Surgery disclosed medical file to a man regarding his son containing 62 pages not only of personal data but also including information on the ex-partner, her parents, and an older child he was not related to. However, although the man requested the records under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act, Regal Chambers had no process implemented to determine whether the data should be handed out.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley commented that “Most people would be horrified to think the information they entrust to their GP was being treated with anything less than the utmost care. In this case a patient reinforced this, however her pleas went unheeded”.

Category: EU · UK
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Is there a high risk that the Privacy Shield will be invalidated?

5. August 2016

Having in mind that the European Court of Justice declared Privacy Shield’s predecessor, Safe Harbor, invalid, the Head of the Hamburg data protection authority, Prof. Dr. Johannes Caspar, would like to ask the European Court of Justice whether it thinks that the Commission’s decision to strike the data-transfer deal was valid.

Due to the fact that there might be upoming legal changes in Germany Caspar hopes that those will make it possible for the country’s DPAs to challenge adequacy decisions.

An E-Mail was published quoting Caspar saying that “The decision of the EU Commission concerning the Privacy Shield constitutes a new legal ground for data subjects, which is a binding document for all members of the [Article 29 Working Party of data protection authorities],” and going on “On the other hand, I have serious doubts whether this adequacy decision meets the legal requirements of the principle of proportionality and judicial redress in the [CJEU’s] Safe Harbor judgement.” Caspar went on commenting that “It is expected that sooner or later the CJEU will assess whether the access by public U.S. authorities to personal data transferred under the Privacy Shield is limited to what is strictly necessary and proportionate in a democratic society. If there is a legal way to seek reference to the CJEU – and we hope that the national lawmaker will enact a law for national DPAs soon – we will take all appropriate steps for getting a ruling on the validity of the Commission’s decision.”

Due to the fact that the GDPR is a regulation rather than a directive, it does not require transposition into national laws. However, the German government debates about new legislation in order to make German data protection law compliant with the GDPR. However, in July the German government issued a statement saying it is working on the new legislation but not mentioning whether this also includes that DPAs are able to challenge adequacy decisions.

Furthermore, Caspar commented that the Article 29 Working Party’s next opportunity to question the Privacy Shield will come in a year’s time, “if the Shield will still be in force”.

However, not only Caspar shows a sceptical point of view towards the Privacy Shield, Thomas Jansen, a partner with DLA Piper in Munich stated that “Many [European] data protection and privacy experts see a high risk that the Privacy Shield will be invalidated”.

 

Privacy Shield: the first applications were submitted

4. August 2016

Although companies began submitting their application to join the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, the U.S. Department of Commerce did not immediately list their compliance.

Among others, Microsoft was one of the first businesses to certify that it complied with the new rules for transferring European Union citizens’ personal data to the U.S.

On its blog Microsoft published a statement by Vice President for EU Government Affairs John Frank saying “We expect it to be approved in the coming days”.  Furthermore, he said “Going forward, any data which we will transfer from Europe to the U.S. will be protected by the Privacy Shield’s safeguards.”

The process for joining the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield includes a self-certification, which is charged by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The fee for processing their annual applications and adding them to the register ranges from $250 for organizations with revenue under US$5 million up to $3,250 for those with revenue over $5 billion.

However, organizations also have to pay in order to join an arbitration service or in terms of data protection authorities dealing with complaints.

 

Category: EU · EU-U.S. Privacy Shield · USA
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The European Court of Justice ruled on the question which Member State’s data protection laws should apply

29. July 2016

As already published the European Court of Justice had to clarify which Member State’s data protection laws should apply to data processing established within the EU but directed at a number of EU Member States.

Yesterday, the European Court of Justice ruled in the case VKI v. Amazon EU that “ (…) the processing of data (…) is governed by the law of the Member State in whose territory that establishment is situated.”

However, the European Court of Justice did not discuss the respective contract between Amazon and its customers stating that “Luxembourg law shall apply.”

Nevertheless, the European Court of Justice came to the conclusion that “It is for the national court to determine (…) whether Amazon EU carries out the data processing in question in the context of the activities of an establishment situated in a Member State other than Luxembourg.”

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.

The future of privacy rules after UK´s referendum to leave the EU

27. June 2016

On the 23rd June, UK celebrated a referendum to vote about UK´s EU membership. About 52% of the participants, voted for leaving the EU. The process of withdrawal from the EU will have to be done according to Art. 50 of the Treaty on the European Union and will take about two years until the process is completed.

The withdrawal of the UK´s membership will also have an impact on data protection rules. First of all, the GDPR will enter into force on the 25th May 2018, so that by this time, the UK will still be in process to leave the EU. This means that UK businesses will have to prepare and be compliant with the GDPR.

Additionally, if UK businesses trade in the EU, a similar framework to that of the GDPR will be required in order to carry out data transfers within the EU member states. The British DPA, ICO, published a statement regarding the existing data protection framework in the UK. According to ICO, “if the UK wants to trade with the Single Market on equal terms we would have to prove adequacy – in other words UK data protection standards would have to be equivalent to the EU´s General Data Protection Regulation framework starting in 2018”.

Currently, the GDPR is the reference in terms of data protection and organizations will have to prepare to be compliant and, even if the GDPR is not applicable to UK, a similar framework should be in place by the time the GDPR enters into force.

Accountability initiative by the EDPS: achieving compliance with the GDPR

8. June 2016

The EDPS announced yesterday the launch of a new initiative that may help EU institutions, public bodies and private organizations to be compliant and prepare for the GDPR. This initiative relates to the accountability principle, which is explicitly mentioned in the GDPR. Accountability regarding the processing of personal data means:

  • Implementing policies within the organization in order to achieve transparency
  • Training employees and persons within the organization with regard to the implementation of the policies
  • Monitoring the implementation of the policies
  • Establishing procedures in order to identify incompliances and act against data breaches

The EDPS states that the accountability principle involves a culture change within organizations and means the promotion of sustainable data processing. This means that organizations should assess the fairness and legality of complex data processing operations. This involve that both, public bodies and private organizations, should develop a risk management strategy that addresses their specific needs, so that they are compliant with the GDPR upon its entry into force in May 2018.

This initiative has been firstly implemented at the EDPS institution itself by using questionnaires addressed to the Supervisors, the Director, the staff responsible for processing operations and the DPO. The implemented actions were also documented and followed up on a regular basis. The questions aimed at ensuring a control over the processing of personal data and the lawfulness of the processing.

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.

European Data Protection Supervisor issues opinion on EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

1. June 2016

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Giovanni Buttarelli, issued this week his opinion on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The EDPS is an independent EU institution created in 2004 that assesses EU institutions on policies and legislation related to privacy and data protection and cooperates with authorities in these matters.

The EDPS emphasized on the following key aspects related to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield:

  • The current draft is not solid enough and improvements should be made in order to withstand scrutiny before the ECJ.
  • The Privacy Shield should offer a long-term solution regarding international data transfers to the U.S.
  • The protection provided by the Privacy Shield should ensure the rights to redress, transparency, data privacy and oversight.
  • It should also prevent from indiscriminate surveillance by American authorities.
  • The draft should comply with the GDPR, including international data transfers.
  • International companies should be aware of and comply with their obligations on privacy and data protection issues.

To sum up, the Privacy Shield should offer an equivalent data protection level to that existing in the EU.

Category: EU · General
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