Category: European Court of Justice

No liability for free Wifi providers

16. September 2016

The European Court of Justice decided that free Wifi providers are not liable for illegal downloads.

The decision is based on a case between Sony and a German shop owner. Sony sued the German shop owner due to the fact that an internet user unlawfully offered music downloads by using the shop’s free Wifi. Although the case originated in Munich, the judges referred the issue to the European Court of Justice.

The European Court of Justice then found that free Wifi is provided by companies in order to attract potential customers. Therefore, they cannot be held liable for illegal acts committed by others using this respective internet network.

Furthermore, Sony can not claim compensation or seek reimbursement for its court costs.

Nevertheless, the European Court of Justice ruled that Sony could demand internet connections to be password protected, so that a user is required to identify himself before accessing the Wifi.

 

 

Category: EU · European Court of Justice
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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”.

 

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.”

Which European DPA is in charge of supervising Amazon?

28. July 2016

In the case Verein für Konsumenteninformation v. Amazon, the Court of Justice of the European Union has to decide which Member State’s data protection law should apply in case goods are sold across national borders but within the EU. In the respective case goods are sold from a German or Luxembourgish website to an Austrian consumer.

This can be seen as one of the more significant data protection cases of 2016. The judgement will be significant due to the fact that the EU is in the process of implementing the new General Data Protection Regulation. As a consequence an European Data Protection Board (EDPB) will be established, which will represent Data Protection Authorities of different Member States. The EDPB will also be responsible for conflicts of jurisdiction. However, this process has been described as a “ (…) hyper bureaucratic procedure that will lead to more complexity and longer procedures.”

In case the Court of Justice of the European Union clarifies the jurisdiction of Data Protection Authorities, there may be less need to utilise these hyper-bureaucratic procedures. This could make the EU’s single market more efficient.

The Court of Justice of the European Union will probably rule on this matter today.

European Court of Justice´s General Advocate: Dynamic IP Addresses are personal data

18. May 2016

Background

In 2014, Mr. Breyer filed a suit against the Federal Republic of Germany regarding the storing of IP Addresses. Several German public bodies operate internet websites that are publicly accessible. In order to avoid and be able to prosecute criminal attacks, the access to these websites is protocolled, including names, retrieved data/website, words searched in the search fields, date and time of retrieval, data transmitted and the IP Address of the device in question.

Mr. Breyer requested that neither the Federal Republic of Germany nor third parties store the IP Address of users that accesses these websites, as there was no consent for this processing and the storage was not based on the recovery due to a disruption of the service.

Prejudicial question from the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof)

The suit from Mr. Breyer was dismissed in the First Instance. However, the appeal succeed partly and the Federal Republic of Germany was sentenced not to store IP Addresses for a longer period of time than that of the access in question. Though, this was subject to the condition that Mr. Breyer provided his personal data when he accessed the website. Both parties appealed to the German Federal Supreme Court, who submitted the following questions to the ECJ:

Question 1: Must the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC be interpreted as meaning that an Internet Protocol address (IP Address) which a service provider stores when his website is accessed already constitutes personal data for the service provider if a third party (an access provider) has the additional knowledge required in order to identify the data subject?

Question 2: Does the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC preclude a provision in national law under which a service provider may collect and use a user’s personal data without his consent only to the extent necessary in order to facilitate, and charge for, the specific use of the telemedium by the user concerned, and under which the purpose of ensuring the general operability of the telemedium cannot justify use of the data beyond the end of the particular use of the telemedium?

Position of the ECJ General Advocate

The ECJ General Advocate answers the above questions as follows:

To question 1: A dynamic IP Address, through which a user has retrieved a website from a telemedia service provider, constitutes for the latter a personal data to the extent that the service provider has enough additional information, which connected with the IP-Address makes possible to identify the user. Dynamic IP-Addresses contain information regarding the time and date in which a website was accessed from a device. This data can provide information about behavioural patterns that can affect the right to privacy of individuals. Additionally it can also provide additional information about a user if it is connected to other personal data.

To question 2: The finality to guarantee the operability of the telemedium should be basically seen as a legitimate interest that justifies the processing of an IP Address. This legitimation can be only alleged if it has primacy over the fundamental rights of the data subject. A national legal disposition that does not allow such legitimate interest, is not consistent with the Data Protection Directive 45/95/EC.

What to expect regarding IP addresses with the GDPR?

The problematic of the IP Addresses may be solved with the GDPR, as the Recital 30 enumerates, among others, also IP addresses as examples of personal data. As such, they can lead to identify an individual if combined with other information, therefore they fall under the scope of the GDPR and they are to be handled as personal data.

 

 

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