Category: European Data Protection

FTC takes action against companies claiming to participate in EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and other international privacy agreements

24. June 2019

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had taken action against several companies that pretended to be compliant with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and other international privacy agreements.

According to the FTC, SecureTest, Inc., a background screening company, has falsely claimed on its website to have participated in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield. These framework agreements allow companies to transfer consumer data from member states of the European Union and Switzerland to the United States in accordance with EU or Swiss law.

In September 2017, the company applied to the U.S. Department of Commerce for Privacy Shield certification. However, it did not take the necessary steps to be certified as compliant with the framework agreements.

Following the FTC’s complaint, the FTC and SecureTest, Inc. have proposed a settlement agreement. This proposal includes a prohibition for SecureTest to misrepresent its participation in any privacy or security program sponsored by any government or self-regulatory or standardization organization. The proposed agreement will be published in the Federal Register and subject to public comment for 30 days. Afterwards the FTC will make a determination regarding whether to make the proposed consent order final.

The FTC has also sent warning letters to 13 companies that falsely claimed to participate in the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor and the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor frameworks, which were replaced in 2016 by the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield frameworks. The FTC asked companies to remove from their websites, privacy policies or other public documents any statements claiming to participate in a safe harbor agreement. If the companies fail to take action within 30 days, the FTC warned that it would take appropriate legal action.

The FTC also sent warning letters with the same request to two companies that falsely claimed in their privacy policies that they were participants in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system. The APEC CBPR system is an initiative to improve the protection of consumer data moving between APEC member countries through a voluntary but enforceable code of conduct implemented by participating companies. To become a certified participant, a designated third party, known as an APEC-approved Accountability Agent, must verify and confirm that the company meets the requirements of the CBPR program.

Spanish DPA imposes fine on Spanish football league

13. June 2019

The Spanish data protection authority Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) has imposed a fine of 250.000 EUR on the organisers of the two Spanish professional football leagues for data protection infringements.

The organisers, Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), operate an app called “La Liga”, which aims to uncover unlicensed performances of games broadcasted on pay-TV. For this purpose, the app has recorded a sample of the ambient sounds during the game times to detect any live game transmissions and combined this with the location data. Privacy-ticker already reported.

AEPD criticized that the intended purpose of the collected data had not been made transparent enough, as it is necessary according to Art. 5 paragraph 1 GDPR. Users must approve the use explicitly and the authorization for the microphone access can also be revoked in the Android settings. However, AEPD is of the opinion that La Liga has to warn the user of each data processing by microphone again. In the resolution, the AEPD points out that the nature of the mobile devices makes it impossible for the user to remember what he agreed to each time he used the La Liga application and what he did not agree to.

Furthermore, AEPD is of the opinion that La Liga has violated Art. 7 paragraph 3 GDPR, according to which the user has the possibility to revoke his consent to the use of his personal data at any time.

La Liga rejects the sanction because of injustice and will proceed against it. It argues that the AEPD has not made the necessary efforts to understand how the technology works. They explain that the technology used is designed to produce only one particular acoustic fingerprint. This fingerprint contains only 0.75% of the information. The remaining 99.25% is discarded, making it technically impossible to interpret human voices or conversations. This fingerprint is also converted into an alphanumeric code (hash) that is not reversible to the original sound. Nevertheless, the operators of the app have announced that they will remove the controversial feature as of June 30.

Belgian DPA imposes first fine since GDPR

11. June 2019

On 28 May 2019, the Belgian Data Protection Authority (DPA) imposed the first fine since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. The Belgian DPA fined a Belgian mayor 2.000 EUR for abusing use of personal data.

The Belgian DPA received a complaint from the data subjects alleging that their personal data collected for local administrative purposes had been further used by the mayor for election campaign purposes. The parties were then heard by the Litigation Chamber of the Belgian DPA. Finally, the Belgian DPA ruled that the mayor’s use of the plaintiff’s personal data violated the purpose limitation principle of the GDPR, since the personal data was originally collected for a different purpose and was incompatible with the purpose for which the mayor used the data.

In deciding on the amount of the fine, the Belgian DPA took into account the limited number of data subjects, the nature, gravity and duration of the infringement, resulting in a moderate sum of 2.000 EUR. Nevertheless, the decision conveys the message that compliance with the GDPR is the responsibility of each data controller, including public officials.

Royal family uses GDPR to protect their privacy

22. May 2019

Last week Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could claim another victory in the royal family’s never ending struggle with paparazzi photographers, securing “a substantial sum” in damages from an agency that released intimate photos of the Oxfordshire home the Duke and Duchess of Sussex rented to the media. In a statement, Splash News apologized for and acknowledged that this situation would represent “an error of judgement”.

The paparazzi agency “Splash News” took photos and footage of the couple’s former Cotswolds home — including their living room, dining area, and bedroom — using a helicopter and promptly sold to different news outlets. The lawyers of Prince Harry argued that this situation caused a breach of his right to privacy according to Art. 7 and 8 ECHR as well as a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA).

Considering the strategy of the Duke’s lawyers, it looks like the royal family have found a potentially attractive alternative to claims of defamation of invasion of privacy. Since in contrast to such a claim, a claimant relying on data protection law neither needs to prove that a statement is at least defamatory and met the threshold for serious harm to reputation nor that the information is private.

However, the (new) European data protection legislation grants all data subjects, regardless of their position and/or fame, a right of respect for their privacy and family lives and protection of their personal data. In particular, the GDPR requires organisations, according to its Article 5, to handle personal data (such as names, pictures and stories relating to them) fairly and in a transparent manner while also using it for a legitimate purpose.

Moreover, when obtaining pictures and footage of an individual’s private or even the intimite sphere, the organization using such materials need a specific reason like some kind of contract, the individual’s consent or be able to argue that using this photos and footage was “in the public interest” or for a “legitimate interest”. As a contract and a consent can be excluded here, the only basis that might be considerd could be a public interest or a legitimate interest of the organization itself. Taking into account the means and the way how these photos and footage of the Duke and Dutchess were created, both of these interest cannot withstand the interest  in protecting the rights and freedom of individuals’ private and intimite sphere.

Referring to this case, it seems pretty likely that the European data protection regime changed the way in how celebrities and the courts enforce the heavy-contested threshold of whether the public is allowed to see and be informed about certain parts and aspects of famous people’s lives or not.

 

 

Public availability of house images using a Google Street View raises legal concerns.

21. May 2019

In recent years, the science of data analytics has dramatically improved the ability to analyse raw data and to make conclusions about that information. Data analytics techniques can reveal trends and patterns that can be used to optimize processes to increase the overall efficiency of a business or system. However, there is an obvious contradiction between the security and privacy of big data and the widespread use of big data.
Google Street View is a quite popular Google service used by millions of people every day to plan trips, explore touristic destinations and more.
In 2017, two university researchers Łukasz Kidziński, Stanford University in California, and Kinga Kita-Wojciechowska,University of Warsaw in Poland, have used Street View images of people’s houses to determine how likely they are to be involved in a car accident.
The researchers worked with an unknown insurance company and analysed 20.000 random addresses of the insurance company clients who had taken out car insurance. They collected information from the insurance company’s database, like age, sex, zip code, claim history and linked that information with Street View images correlated with the policyholder’s residential area. It turned out that a policyholder’s residence is a surprisingly good predictor of the likelihood that he/she will get involved in a car accident.
Subsequently, researchers put those results into a data analytics algorithm, which improved its predictive power by 2%. They also noted that the accuracy of the algorithm could be further improved using larger data sets and data analysis.
The insurance companies rely on data to predict risk and the results of the research are from this perspective impressive, but they are also disturbing. The new utilization of the technology is an important step towards improving risk prediction models. However, having in mind the results of the research, some interesting questions regarding data protection come up: Did the policyholders give their consent to this activity? Could the insurance company use individuals’ data this way given Europe’s strict privacy legislation? “The consent given by the clients to the company to store their addresses does not necessarily mean a consent to store information about the appearance of their houses,” said by Kidziński and Kita-Wojciechowska.”
Studies such as these raise datat protection questions about thepower of data analysis and how the information is collected and shared.

EDPB: One year – 90.000 Data Breach Notifications

20. May 2019

Because of the GDPR’s first anniversary the EDPB published a new report that looks back on the first year GDPR.

Besides other findings of the report, the EDPB states that the national supervisory authorities received in total 281.088 complaints. 89.271 data breach notifications, 144.376 GDPR-related complaints and 47.441 other. Three month ago the number of received complaints were in total 206.326, 64.484 data breach notifications, 94.622 GDPR-related complaints from data subjects and 47.020 other. These number of complaints prove that the complaints have (on average) increased in the last three month.

At the time of the EDPB report 37% of the complaints are ongoing and 0,1% of the fined companies appealed against the decision of the supervisory authority. The other 62,9% were already closed. This proves that in contrast to the report after nine month, 2/3 of the complaints have been processed in the meantime. Three month ago only 52% were closed.

Referring to the EDPB report from three month ago, fines totalling € 55.955.871 were awarded for the detected violations by 11 authorities. With this high sum, however, it must be noted that € 50 million was imposed on Google alone. The current EDPB-report does not include a passage on fines.

All in all, the increase in queries and complaints, compared to the previous years, confirm the risen awareness on data protection. According to the Eurobarometer 67% of EU citizens have heard of the GDPR, 36% indicated that they are aware of the GDPR entails and 57% know about the existence of a public authority.

German Court’s Decision on the Right of Access

9. April 2019

Just recently, a German Labour Court (LAG Baden-Württemberg) has decided on the extent of Article 15 of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with regard to the information that is supposed to be handed out to the data subject in case such a claim is made.

The decision literally reflects the wording of Art. 15 (1) GDPR which, amongst other things, requires information on

  • the purposes of data processing,
  • the categories of personal data concerned,
  • the recipients or categories of recipient to whom the personal data have been or will be disclosed
  • where possible, the envisaged period for which the personal data will be stored, or, if not possible, the criteria used to determine that period,
  • where the personal data are not collected from the data subject, any available information as to their source.

In contrast to the previous views of the local data protection authorities, which – in the context of information about recipients of personal data – deem sufficient that the data controller discloses recipient categories, the LAG Baden-Württemberg also obliged the data controller to provide the data subject with information about each individual recipient.

In addition, the LAG Baden-Württemberg ordered the data controller to make available to the data subject a copy of all his personal performance data. However, the court did not comment on the extent of copies that are to be made. It is therefore questionable whether, in addition to information from the systems used in the company, copies of all e-mails containing personal data of the person concerned must also be made available to the data subject.

Since the court has admitted the appeal to the Federal Labour Court (BAG) regarding this issue, it remains to be seen whether such an approach will still be valid after a Federal Labour Court decision.

Advocate General: No Valid Cookie Consent When Checkbox Is Pre-ticked

25. March 2019

On 21 of March Maciej Szpunar, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, delivered his Opinion in the case of Planet24 GmbH against Bundesverband Verbraucherzentralen und Vebraucherverbände – Verbaucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. (Federal Association of Consumer Organisations). In the Opinion, Szpunar explains how to obtain valid consent for the use of cookies.

In the case in question, Planet24 GmbH has organised a lottery campaign on the internet. When registering to participate in the action lottery, two checkboxes appeared. The first checkbox, which did not contain a pre-selected tick, concerned permission for sponsors and cooperation partners to contact the participant in order to inform him of their offers. The second checkbox, which was already ticked off, concerned the consent to the setting of cookies, which evaluate the user’s surfing and usage behaviour.

The Federal Association held that the clauses used infringed german law, in particular Article 307 of the BGB, Article 7(2), point 2, of the UWG and Article 12 et seq. of the TMG and filed a lawsuit in 2014 after an unsuccessful warning.

In the course of the instances, the case ended up at the German Federal Supreme Court in 2017. The German Federal Court considers that the success of the case depends on the interpretation of Articles 5(3) and 2(f) of Directive 2002/58, read in conjunction with Article 2(h) of Directive 95/46, and of Article 6(1)(a) of Regulation 2016/679. For that reason, it asked the European Court of Justice the following questions for a preliminary ruling:

(1) Does consent given on the basis of a pre-ticked box meet the requirements for valid consent under the ePrivacy Directive, the EU Data Protection Directive and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (the GDPR)?

(2) What information does the service provider have to provide to the user and does this include the duration of the use of cookies and whether third parties have access to the cookies?

According to the Advocate General, there is no valid consent if the checkbox is already ticked. In such case, the user must remove the tick, i.e. become active if he/she does not agree to the use of cookies. However, this would contradict the requirement of an active act of consent by the user. It is necessary for the user to explicitly consent to the use of cookies. Therefore, it is also not sufficient if one checkbox is used to deal with both the use of cookies and participation in the action lottery. Consent must be given separately. Otherwise the user is not in the position to freely give a separate consent.

In addition, Szpunar explains that the user must be provided with clear and comprehensive information that enables the user to easily assess the consequences of his consent. This requires that the information provided is unambiguous and cannot be interpreted. For this purpose, the information must contain details such as the duration of the operation of cookies, as well as whether third parties have access to the cookies.

EDPB publishes information note on data transfer in the event of a no-deal Brexit

25. February 2019

The European Data Protection Board has published an information note to explain data transfer to organisations and facilitate preparation in the event that no agreement is reached between the EEA and the UK. In case of a no-deal Brexit, the UK becomes a third country for which – as things stand at present – no adequacy decision exists.

EDPB recommends that organisations transferring data to the UK carry out the following five preparation steps:

• Identify what processing activities will imply a personal data transfer to the UK
• Determine the appropriate data transfer instrument for your situation
• Implement the chosen data transfer instrument to be ready for 30 March 2019
• Indicate in your internal documentation that transfers will be made to the UK
• Update your privacy notice accordingly to inform individuals

In addition, EDPB explains which instruments can be used to transfer data to the UK:
– Standard or ad hoc Data Protection Clauses approved by the European Commission can be used.
– Binding Corporate Rules for data processing can be defined.
– A code of conduct or certification mechanism can be established.

Derogations are possible in the cases mentioned by article 49 GDPR. However, they are interpreted very restrictively and mainly relate to processing activities that are occasional and non-repetitive. Further explanations on available derogations and how to apply them can be found in the EDPB Guidelines on Article 49 of GDPR.

The French data protection authority CNIL has published an FAQ based on the information note of the EDPB, explaining the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for the data transfer to the UK and which preparations should be made.

The European Data Protection Board presents Work Program for 2019/2020

14. February 2019

On February 12, 2019 the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) released on their website a document containing a two-year Work Program.

The EDPB acts as an independent European body and is established by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The board is formed of representatives of the national EU and EEA EFTA data protection supervisory authorities, and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

The tasks of the EDPB are to issue guidelines on the interpretation of key ideas of the GDPR as well as the ruling by binding decisions on disputes regarding cross-border processing activities. Its objective is to ensure a consistent application of EU rules to avoid the same case potentially being dealt with differently across various jurisdictions. It promotes cooperation between EEA EFTA and the EU data protection supervisory authorities.

The EDPB work program is based on the needs identified by the members as priority for individuals, stakeholders, as well as the EU legislator- planned activities. It contains Guidelines, Consistency opinions, other types of activities, recurrent activities and possible topics.

Furthermore, the EDPB released an information note about data transfers if a no-deal Brexit occurs. As discussed earlier, in this case the UK will become a so-called “third country” for EU member countries beginning from March 30. According to the UK Government, the transfer of data from the UK to the EEA will remain unaffected, permitting personal data to flow freely in the future.

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