Category: GDPR

Microsoft violates the GDPR on a massive scale

20. November 2018

A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) outsourced by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, concluded that Microsoft collects and stores personal data of Office users on a large scale without informing them. According to this report, Microsoft thus violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on a massive scale.

The DPIA was carried out to probe the use of Microsoft Office in the public sector. Most of the Dutch authorities use Microsoft Office 2016, Office 365 or an older version. The Dutch judiciary, police, various ministries and tax offices use Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. The DPIA found that Microsoft not only collects and stores personal data but also send them to the US. In addition, users are not informed and it is not offered to switch off the collection or to see what data are collected. The Assessment outlined eight different risks and possible risk mitigating measures. One example is the “Lack of Transparency”. A possible measure recommended for Microsoft is the public documentation and the implementation of a data viewer tool because at the moment the content of the diagnostic data (i.e. “all observations stored in event logs about the behaviour of individual users of the services”) is not accessible.

Microsoft stated that -for the examined Office versions- between 23,000 and 25,000 event logs are sent to Microsoft servers and that 20 to 30 development teams analyse the data. The company agreed to change its practices by April 2019 and until then offers “zero exhaust” settings to shut down the data collection. A Microsoft spokesperson told The Register: “We are committed to our customers’ privacy, putting them in control of their data and ensuring that Office ProPlus and other Microsoft products and services comply with GDPR and other applicable laws.”

In addition to applying the new settings, the DPIA encourages users to deactivate Connected Services and Microsoft’s data sharing system, not use the web-based Office 365, SharePoint, or OneDrive, delete the directory of the system, and consider using alternative software.

Privacy International accuses seven companies of violating the GDPR

13. November 2018

On November 8th, Privacy International – a British non-governmental organisation – has filed complaints against seven data brokers (Axiom, Oracle), ad-tech companies (Criteo, Quandcast, Tapad) and credit referencing agencies (Equifax, Experian) with data protection authorities in France, Ireland and the UK.

Privacy International accuses those companies of violating the GDPR: They all collect personal data from a wide variety of sources and merge them into individual profiles. Therefore, information from different areas of an individual’s life flow together to create a comprehensive picture e.g. online and offline shopping behaviour, hobbies, health, social life, income situation.

According to Privacy International, the companies not only deal with the collected data, but also with the conclusions they draw about their data subjects: Life situation, personality, creditworthiness. Among their customers are other companies, individuals and governments. Privacy International accuses them to violate data protection principals such as transparency, purpose limitation, data minimisation, integrity and confidentiality.

Furthermore, the companies have no valid legal basis for the processing of personal data, in particular for the purpose of profiling. According to Privacy International, where those companies claim to have the consent of the data subjects, they cannot prove how this consent was given, nor that the data subjects voluntarily provided it after sufficient and clear information.

“Without urgent and continuous action, data will be used in ways that people cannot now even imagine, to define and manipulate our lives without us being to understand why or being able to effectively fight back,” Frederike Kaltheuner, Privacy International’s data exploitation programme lead, said.

With its complaint, Privacy International takes advantage of a new possibility for collective enforcement of data protection created by the GDPR. The Regulation allows non-profit organisations or associations to use supervisory procedures to represent data subjects (Art. 80 GDPR).

Apple, Google and Co. endorse a more GDPR-like U.S. federal privacy law

6. November 2018

At the 4oth International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) Apple CEO Tim Cook and other prominent representatives of leading tech companies, all expressed their endorsement of a more GDPR-like privacy legislation around the globe and particularly the US. The ICDPPC takes place in Brussels once a year and apart from independent data protection authorities as accredited members, the attendees include representatives of states without independent data protection supervisory bodies, international organisations, non-governmental organisations as well as representatives from science and industry.

On this platform, Cook strongly supported the idea of introducing similar data protection standards to those of the GDPR in the US and encouraged his fellow tech companies to do so as well. The Apple CEO warned of a danger of a “data industrial complex”, where information about individuals is being weaponized against humanity “with military efficiency”. Cook pointed out that scraps of personal data are “carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold” creating an “enduring digital profile which lets companies know individuals better than they may know themselves”, since businesses would use these information to make billions and billions of dollars. As this would end up in surveillance while those stockpiles of data only serve to enrich companies, he ensures Apple’s “full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States”.

Without mentioning them, the Apple CEO refers in particular to the data giants Google and Facebook by emphasizing their responsibility of creating adequate data protection standards. Both of them have been in the focus of a global discussion on whether they provide their users with adequate privacy settings. However, Facebook’s CPO Erin Egan replied, unequivocally, “yes”, when she was asked whether she would support a GDPR-like data protection law in the U.S. as well as Google General Counsel Kent Walker said, “we’ve been on record for some time calling for comprehensive privacy legislation in the past years” when he was asked about Google’s position on a U.S. federal privacy bill. Walker also pointed to Google’s recent release of principles it supports as part of a federal bill.

Last but not least, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Julie Brill eventually stated that Microsoft has extended many of the GDPR’s protection measures to their entire customer base and has been a supporter of a U.S. federal privacy bill since 2005. In particular, Brill endorsed a “strong, robust, and horizontally effective baseline privacy legislation.” She further ensured that at Microsoft people are using their voice as strongly as they could to encourage that to take place.

Bearing in mind the data scandals around – in particular – Google and Facebook, and the rather low data protection standards in the U.S., it seems that at least four representatives of the top seven tech companies in the world endorse a new U.S. federal privacy bill and will encourage in supporting an adequate privacy standard around the globe. Regarding the actual stance of the Trump administration, FTC Commissioner and recent Trump appointee Noah Phillips, gave an indication about how this subject will be treated. According to his personal opinion, such a regulation should be done “only if necessary and then very carefully.” Being asked whether the U.S. has the right laws in place to regulate technology appropriately, or whether there were any gaps, he replied, “that is a big question we are debating right now in the United States.”

400,000€ fine for a Portuguese hospital

24. October 2018

The Portuguese data protection supervisory authority CNPD (Comissão Nacional de Protecção de Dados) recently announced that the hospital Barreiro Montijo is to pay a fine of 400,000€ for incompliancy with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is the first time that a high fine has been imposed in Europe based on the new GDPR framework of fines.

According to Portuguese newspaper Público, the hospital has violated the GDPR by allowing too many users to have access to patient data in the hospital’s patient management system, even though they should only have been visible to medical doctors. In addition, too many profiles of physicians have been created in the hospital system. The CNPD discovered that 985 users with the access rights of a medical doctor were registered, although only 296 physicians were employed in 2018.

The hospital now wants to take legal action against the fine.

EDPB Publishes Opinions on National DPIA Lists

17. October 2018

Regarding the data protection impact assessment (“DPIA”) the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) recently published 22 Opinions on the draft lists of Supervisory Authority (“SAs”) in EU Member States. This is supposed to clarify which processing operations are subject to the requirement of conducting a DPIA under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).

The European Data Protection Board is an independent European body, which contributes to the consistent application of data protection rules throughout the European Union, and promotes cooperation between the EU’s data protection authorities. The Supervisory Authorities will now be given two weeks to decide whether they want to amend their draft list or maintain them and explain their decision.

Article 35(4) of the GDPR states that the SAs of the EU Member States must establish, publish and communicate to the EDPB a list of processing operations that trigger the DPIA requirement under the GDPR. Several EU Members States provided their list: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The national lists can vary because the SAs must take into account not only their national legislation but also the national or regional context.

To some extent, the EDPB requests that the SAs include processing activities in their list or specify additional criteria that, when combined, would satisfy the DPIA requirement. Furthermore, the EDPB requests that the SAs remove some processing activities or criteria not considered to present a high risk to individuals. The objective of the EDPB opinions is to ensure consistent application of the GDPR’s DPIA requirement and to limit inconsistencies among the EU States with respect to this requirement.

Facebook may face up to $1.63 Billion Fine in Europe after Data Breach

2. October 2018

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the company’s lead privacy regulator in the EU, could fine Facebook Inc. up to $1.63 billion for a data breach disclosed Friday, reports the Wall Street Journal. Hackers compromised the accounts of at least 50 million users, bypassing security measures and possibly giving them full control of both profiles and linked apps.

The Commission is now requesting more information on the scale and nature of the data breach in order to find out which EU residents could be affected. Facebook announced that it would respond to follow-up questions. The incident results in the latest legal threat Facebook is facing from U.S. and European officials over its handling of user data and is a severe setback to their efforts to regain trust after a series of privacy and security breaches.

The way in which this data breach is handled by data protection authorities could mark one of the first important tests under the GDPR, which came into force in May earlier this year. The handling could provide conclusions regarding the application of breach-notifications and data-security provisions by companies in the future.
The law requires companies to notify data protection authorities of breaches within 72 hours, under threat of a maximum fine of 2% of worldwide revenue. Furthermore, under the GDPR companies that fail to safeguard their users’ data risk a maximum fine of €20 million ($23 million), or 4% of a firm’s global annual revenue for the prior year, whichever is higher. Taking the larger calculation as a basis Facebook’s maximum fine would be $1.63 billion.

Belgium publishes new data protection law

12. September 2018

On September 5 2018, the new data protection law (“Law of 30 July”) was published in the Belgian Official Gazette (“Belgisch Staatsblad”) and entered into force with this publication.

After the “Law of 3 December 2017”, which replaced the Belgian Privacy Commission with the Belgian Data Protection Authority (“Gegevensbeschermingsautoriteit”), the Law of 30 July is the second law that implements the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The laws regulate various essential areas of data protection. New regulations are for instance, the reducing of the age of consent from 16 (as regulated in GDPR) to 13 years old for information society services or the requirement to list persons who have access to genetic, biometric and health-related data. Therewith, Belgium has also made use of the possibility to deviate from the GDPR in different scopes.

With the law of 30 July, Belgium has thus completed the incorporation of the GDPR into national law. The Law is available in French and Dutch.

Category: Belgium · GDPR
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EU Commission: Using Personal Data In Political Campaigns

29. August 2018

Following the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica case, the EU Commission intends to prohibit the misuse of Collection data of voters in order to influence elections. As the Irish Times reports, the EU Commission is drafting an amendment to existing party funding rules prohibiting parties profiting from data collections of the kind as alleged against Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of obtaining information of millions Facebook users without the data subjects’ consent by using a personality-analysis app during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

It is expected that sanctions will have the extent of approximately 5 percent of the annual budget of a political party. An official said “it is meant to ensure that something like Cambridge Analytica can never happen in the EU”.

Considering the upcoming election of the European Parliament in May 2019, various measures are to be recommended or imposed by the EU Commission that shall be followed by the member states in order to prevent misuse of voters’ personal data or the online manipulation of voters. While it is intended to recommend the governments to watch over and clamp down on groups sending personalized political messages to users of social media without their consent, the member states shall also be stricter about the transparency requirements of political advertisement on national level by amending national law.

Last month, Vera Jourova, EU justice commissioner, said: “voters and citizens should always understand – when something is an online campaign – who runs the campaign, who pays for it and what they want to achieve.”

However, she also made clear that the EU will respect free expression and that the EU is not going to regulate online activities of political parties. “The internet is a zone for free expression. Everybody can be a journalist or an influencer, and these are the things that we don’t want to touch”, she stated.

Database operators in Sweden exempt from GDPR

24. August 2018

With the GDPR coming into effect, enterprises in Sweden will also be subject to complying with the European principles and adhering to the GDPR.

However, new amendments and changes to the country’s constitution will be required to harmonise existing laws.

Due to the fact that Sweden emphasizes freedom of press and speech, it will initially make exemptions in cases where elements don’t comply with its Freedom of the Press Act of 1766.

As a consequence, current laws give database operators a broad freedom to gather and release personal data enabling them to collect and distribute personal information from a broad range of sources, including the national tax office.

The database operators and online publishers Eniro, Ratsit and Hitta are some of the companies that will be exempt until an expert group has drafted new and stricter legislation regarding the processing of personal data by these.

It is expected that the relevant laws will be amended in the first half of 2019.

Dutch Data Protection Authority: Randomly selected companies will be subject to GDPR-compliance investigations

31. July 2018

This month, the Data Protection Authority (DPA) of the Netherlands has launched an investigation according to Art. 57 (1) a GDPR which obliges the supervisory authorities to “monitor and enforce compliance” with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Dutch DPA thereby verifies compliance with Art. 30 GDPR (records of processing activities) in 30 randomly selected large companies of the private sector (i.e. which have more than 250 employees) rooted in 10 different branches: industry, water supply, construction, retail, hospitality, travel, communications, finance, business services, and health care across the Netherlands. Its investigative powers in terms of this investigation derive from Art. 58 (1) a GDPR which enables the DPAs “to order the controller and the processor, and, where applicable the controller’s or the processor’s representative, to provide any information the supervisory authority requires for the performance of its tasks”.

For those investigations it is not necessary that a complaint has been lodged or any other indication of non-compliance occurs. In particular, the Dutch DPA regularly carries out such “ex officio” investigations focusing on certain enforcement priorities depending on the sector or the topic. With their investigation strategy they aim to focus on the compliance with certain requirements of the GDPR that may typically create adequate safeguards in organizations to issue and maintain compliance with the general Principles of the GDPR (Art. 5 et seqq GDPR).

Therefore, the authorities decided for the private sector that the records of processing activities (Art. 30 GDPR) are the key drivers for GDPR compliance, since these records eventually enable an organization knowing about what personal data they process and for which purposes. Since the results of the investigation will most probably be published anonymously (e.g. numbers and other details of the violation in specific sectors), they might hope to create a ripple effect on other organizations of the respective sectors.

A prediction of the crucial penalties that may be the result of this “ex officio” investigations of the Dutch DPA is basically not possible, as the organizations involved and the state of their GDPR compliance are unknown. But it might be interesting that the Dutch DPA is also allowed to issue a so-called “enforcement notice under penalty” according to the Dutch GDPR Execution Act if an organization has been established non-compliant. This enforcement notice can contain an order for the respective organization to comply and demonstrate compliance within a fixed time frame. For each day or week that they fail to comply with such an order, a fixed penalty may apply.

Such an enforcement order may be issued in the event of a violation of Art. 30 GDPR that is not likely to result in a risk for the data subjects. Where the investigation shows that non-compliance may result in a risk for the freedoms and rights of the data subjects or is potentially deemed unfair, the penalty could also result in the maximum category of possible fines.

 

Category: GDPR · The Netherlands
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