Category: GDPR

EU looking to increase Enforcement Powers over Tech Giants

24. September 2020

In an interview with The Financial Times on Sunday, EU-Commissioner Thierry Breton stated that the European Union is considering plans to increase its enforcement powers regarding tech giants.

This empowerment is supposed to include punitive measures such as forcing tech firms to break off and sell their EU operations if the dominance on the market becomes too large. It is further considered to enable the EU to be able to boot tech companies from the EU single market entirely. Breton stated these measures would of course only be used in extreme circumstances, but did not elaborate on what would qualify as extreme.

“There is a feeling from end-users of these platforms that they are too big to care,” Thierry Breton told The Financial Times. In the interview, he compared tech giants’ market power to the big banks before the financial crisis. “We need better supervision for these big platforms, as we had again in the banking system,” he stated.

In addition, the European Union is considering a rating system, in which companies would be given scores in different categories such as tax compliance, taking action against illegal content, etc. However, Breton said that it is not the intend to make companies liable for their users’ content.

Breton further said that the first drafts of the new law will be ready by the end of the year.

Once the final draft is in place, it will require approval both by the European Parliament as well as the European Council, before it can be enacted.

Privacy Activist Schrems unleashes 101 Complaints

21. September 2020

Lawyer and privacy activist Maximilian Schrems has become known for his legal actions leading to the invalidation of “Safe Harbor” in 2015 and of the “EU-U.S. Privacy Shield” this year (we reported). Following the landmark court decision on the “EU-U.S. Privacy Shield”, Schrems recently announced on the website of his NGO “noyb” (non-of-your-business) that he has filed 101 complaints against 101 European companies in 30 different EU and EEA countries with the responsible Data Protection Authorities. Schrems exercised the right to lodge a complaint with the supervisory authority that every data subject has if he or she considers that the processing of personal data relating to him or her infringes the Regulation, pursuant to Art. 77 GDPR.

The complaints concern the companies’ continued use of Google Analytics and Facebook Connect that transfer personal data about each website visitor (at least IP-address and Cookie data) to Google and Facebook which reside in the United States and fall under U.S. surveillance laws, such as FISA 702. Schrems also published a list of the 101 companies which include Sky Deutschland, the University of Luxembourg and the Cyprus Football Association. With his symbolic action against 101 companies, Schrems wanted to point to the widespread inactivity among many companies that still do not take the data protection rights of individuals seriously despite the recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

In response, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) has set up a “task force” to handle complaints against European companies using Google Analytics and Facebook services. The taskforce shall analyse the matter and ensure a close cooperation among the members of the Board which consists of all European supervisory authorities as well as the European Data Protection Supervisor.

Apple to delay iOS 14 Ad Tracking Changes

9. September 2020

In an update from Apple on Thursday, 3rd of September 2020, it was announced that some of the plans that were supposed to be launched in the new iOS 14 update are being delayed. The new feature of iOS developers having to request permission from app users before collecting their data for ad tracking is being pushed back to the beginning of 2021.

This and other features are seen as a big step towards users’ privacy, which you can read up on in our previous blogpost, but they have been criticised by app developers and big tech giants alike.

The permission feature was supposed to change the way users’ privacy is being accessed, from the current opt-out method to an opt-in one. “When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis,” stated Apple.

However, this will be delayed until early next year, due to the fact that the changes would affect a large amount of the platforms’ publishers, which rely strongly on ad tracking revenue. Facebook criticized the changes and announced that some of their tools may lose efficiency, and hence cause problems for smaller app developers. To combat this issue, Apple said: “We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”

In recent years, Apple has taken its users’ privacy more seriously, launching new adjustments to ensure their right to privacy is being integrated in their devices.

„We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking,” Apple emphasized.

Category: EU · GDPR · General
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ICO passed Children’s Code

8. September 2020

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) passed the Age Appropriate Design Code, also called Children’s Code, which applies especially to social media and online services likely to be used by minors under the age of 18 in the UK.

The Children’s Code contains 15 standards for designers of online services and products. The aim is to ensure a minimum level of data protection. Therefore, the Code requires that apps, games, websites etc. are built up in a way which provides already a baseline of data protection. The following default settings should be mentioned here:

  • Glocalization disabled by default,
  • Profiling disabled by default,
  • Newly created profiles private and not public by default.

Base for the Children’s Code is the UK Data Protection Act of 2018 – local implementation law of the GDPR. Thus, the standards also include the GDPR Data Protection principles Transparency and Data Minimisation.

The requirements also and especially apply to the major social media and online services used by minors in the UK, e.g. TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

The Code is designed to be risk-based. This means that not all organizations have to fulfil the same obligations. The more companies use, analyse and profile data from minors, the more they must undertake to comply with the Code.

Apple’s new iOS Update will enhance Privacy Features

31. August 2020

At its Worldwide Developers Conference 2020 back in June, Apple announced new privacy features coming in a future iOS 14 update for its devices. These updates, coming in the fall, are supposed to include more control of sharing location data and indicators when an app is using the microphone or camera.

The updates mean that it will be further possible to limit how much location information is shared with apps, only allowing it to share approximate data rather than the devices precise location. Apple also introduced labels for app permissions to inform people how much data an app requests, before they even download them. The feature will show people those labels in two categories, on “Data Linked To You” and “Data Used to Track You“. However, this will have to be provided by the app developers themselves, leaving grey areas open.

“For food, you have nutrition labels,” said Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s user privacy manager. “So we thought it would be great to have something similar for apps. We’re going to require each developer to self-report their practices.”

Further, the privacy updates also incorporate the Safari browser, allowing for a report on privacy while surfing the internet through the use of a “privacy report” button. It will allow the overview of all third-party trackers through one click, and allow the user to block them directly.

Apple also moved from the opt-out standard for apps using the user’s personal data to an opt-in scheme, requiring the active consent of the users in order to allow the use of their data.

While this is a positive development for all Apple users, Facebook states that it sees issues for small developers having to face these new privacy settings.

In a blog post, Facebook said it was making a change to its own apps, which in addition to its flagship app also include WhatsApp and Instagram, that would likely spare them from having to ask iPhone users for data-tracking permissions that many advertising industry insiders believe users will refuse. Facebook also stated it was making changes due to Apple’s new privacy rules that could hurt smaller developers that use a Facebook tool for serving apps in third-party apps.

Overall, Apple’s new privacy rules are a welcomed changes for its users, handing them further control over their own personal data.

Irish DPC to assess TikTok’s plans for opening Data Centre in Ireland

13. August 2020

The short video app TikTok is planning to establish a data centre in Ireland under the One Stop Shop (OSS) data processing mechanism, the Irish Data Commission has stated.

However, the company needs to first be assessed to determine if they meet the requirements of the OSS.

The OSS rules, introduced under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) rules, mean companies can make the Irish Data Protection Commission the lead supervisory authority, if they meet the criteria, and would not have to deal with regulators in each of the 28 EU member states but could be monitored by a lead regulator in one state. This would benefit the company in the case that if something happens, it would be one investigation, one decision and one appeal, rather than one for each country affected.

These plans come at a time when the popular app is facing some criticism, however. Not only is TikTok on the verge of being banned in the United States, a lot of doubts in regard to their handling of user data have surfaced in the past few months.

Last week in Beijing, the Beijing Internet Court ruled against TikTok’s owner Tencent Holdings in cases alleging the misuse of user data. The data was shared without consent between the WeRead and WeChat apps, violating the users’ privacy.

The move to establish a data centre in Ireland “will create hundreds of new jobs and play a key role in further strengthening the safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data with a state of the art physical and network security defense system planned around this new operation,“ stated Global Chief Information Security Officer of the company, Roland Cloutier.

Following the moves of big tech giants of recent years, TikTok plans to open the data centre by the year 2022. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner stated that the examination for the OSS mechanism is currently underway.

U.S. Commerce Department publishes FAQs on EU-US Privacy Shield

12. August 2020

The U.S. Commerce Department has released a frequently asked questions page (FAQ) with regards to the EU-US Privacy Shield, following the latest decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Schrems II case.

The FAQ consists of five questions which revolve around the situation after the invalidation of the Privacy Shield by the CJEU, especially the status of companies already certified under the Privacy Shield.

The Commerce Department states in its FAQ that despite the invalidity of the Privacy Shield certification as a GDPR compliant transfer mechanism, the decision of the CJEU does not relieve companies certified under the Privacy Shield from their obligations. On July 21, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stated that they expect controllers to continue to follow the obligations laid out under the Privacy Shield Framework for transfers.

Further, the Commerce Department will continue to administer certification and re-certification under the Privacy Shield despite the new development. The Commerce Department emphasizes that the continued dedication to the Privacy Shield will show the commitment of the parties and the controllers certified under it to the Data Protection cause.

However, the Commerce Department also notes that the costs coming along with a Privacy Shield certification will remain, which could have an effect on the motivation for companies to get self- and re-certified.

CJEU judges the EU-US Privacy Shield invalid

16. July 2020

On June 16th, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has declared the invalidity of Decision 2016/1250, therefore rendering protection granted to data transfers under the EU-US Privacy Shield inadequate.

The background

The case originated in a complaint of Mr. Max Schrems against Facebook Ireland regarding the transfer of his personal data as a Facebook user to Facebook Inc., situated in the USA, for further processing. Mr. Schrems lodged a complaint with the Irish supervisory authority seeking to prohibit those transfers. He claimed that the law and practices in the United States do not offer sufficient protection against access by the public authorities to the data transferred to the USA. That complaint was rejected on the ground that, in Decision 2000/5205, the Safe Harbour Decision, the Commission had found that the United States ensured an adequate level of protection. In a judgment delivered on October 6th, 2015, the CJEU, to which the High Court of Ireland had referred questions for a preliminary ruling, declared that decision invalid, resulting in the Schrems I judgment.

Today’s judgement in the Schrems II case came from the request of the Irish High Court to Mr. Schrems to reformulate his initial complaint, seeing as the Safe Harbour Agreement had been deemed inadequate. In the following, Mr. Schrems reformulated his complaint, and claimed that the United States does not offer sufficient protection of data transferred to that country. He seeks the suspension of future transfers of his personal data from the EU to the United States, which Facebook Ireland now carries out pursuant to the Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) set out in the Annex to Decision 2010/87. After the initiation of those proceedings, the Commission adopted Decision 2016/1250 on the adequacy of the protection provided by the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

In its request for a preliminary ruling, the referring court asked the CJEU whether the GDPR applies to transfers of personal data pursuant to the SCCs, what level of protection is required by the GDPR in connection with such a transfer, and what obligations are incumbent on supervisory authorities in those circumstances. The High Court of Ireland also raised the question of the validity of both decisions,  Decision 2010/87 and  Decision 2016/1250.

Judgement in regard to SCCs

In its judgements, the CJEU has stated that it had, after examination of the SCCs in light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, found nothing that affected the validity of the SCCs and Decision 2010/87.

With regards to the transfer of personal data to third countries, the CJEU claims that the requirements for such purposes set out by the GDPR concerning appropriate safeguards, enforceable rights and effective legal measures must be interpreted in such a way that data subjects whose personal data is transferred into a third country must be afforded a level of protection essentially similar to the level of protection granted within the European Union by the GDPR.

Data Protection Authorities must, unless an adequacy decision has been ruled by the Commission, be required to suspend or prohibit a transfer of personal data to a third country which does not meet these requirements.

The CJEU holds that the SCCs are still effective mechanisms that make it possible to ensure compliance with a level of protection required by the European Union. In that regard the CJEU points out that this imposes an obligation on the data exporter and the recipient of the data to verify, prior to any transfer, whether that level of protection is respected in the third country concerned, and to suspend the transfer of the personal data if it is not.

Judgement in regard to the EU-US Privacy Shield

The CJEU, after thorough examination, concluded that the EU-US Privacy Shield is not adequate protection for transfers to the USA.

This result comes from the fact that the far-reaching US surveillance laws are in conflict with EU fundamental rights. The USA limits most of its protections of personal data from governmental surveillance to US citizen, but does not extend that protection to the personal data of citizens of other countries.

In essence, the limitations on the protection of personal data arising from the domestic law of the USA on the access and use by US public authorities of such data transferred from the European Union are not restricted in a way that satisfies requirements that are equivalent to those required under EU law, which were mentioned in regards to SCCs above. By the principle of proportionality, the surveillance programmes based on those provisions are not limited to what is strictly necessary.

Unless an empowerment and independence of the Ombudsperson takes place, which would give the competence to adopt decisions which are binding on US intelligence services, there are no substantial cause of actions for data subjects before a body which gives legal guarantees in the way that is required by European law for transfers to be equivalent in protection.

Assessment

Overall, the CJEU states that necessary data transfers are still able to continue under Article 49 of the GDPR. However, the provision’s interpretation is restrictive, leaving most companies with data transfers to the USA which are now considered illegal.

Due to the requirements of adequate protection even when relying on the validated SCCs, transfers under such circumstances may also be found unlawful due to the local intelligence laws in the USA, which do not uphold the requirements necessary by European law.

Overall, it is a clear statement of the necessity of reforms of the US intelligence laws, which have to create adequate protections to be able to guarantee the same level of data protection as the European Union, if they want to continue data trades and data transfers necessary for processing.

What does this mean for you?

  • If your business has a EU-US Privacy Shield certification, and uses such for legitimization of data transfers within a group of companies, you should push towards the use of the European Standard Contractual Clauses within that corporate group.
  • If you are employing service providers which rely on the EU-US Privacy Shield certification, you should also push for the use of Standard Contractual Clauses, or base the data transfer on a different solution for an adequate level of data protection.

CIPL submits DSR “White Paper” to the EDPB as input for future Guidelines

The Centre for Information Policy Leadership (“CIPL”) at Hunton Andrews Kurth submitted its White Paper on Data Subject Rights (DSR) on July 8th, 2020, as input for the European Data Protection Board for future Guidelines on the subject.

The White Paper examines the effectiveness of the DSRs by keeping in mind the interpretation in the context of today’s data driven economy. It puts forth that the Guidelines should take into account new business models, data-driven processes and the data economy as well as the digitalisation of society.

In that aspect, the Paper offers suggestions for the EDPB to consider and reflect upon. Some few of the main subjects the Paper requests the Guidelines to touch on are:

  • Clarification of the requirements governing verification of the identity of individuals submitting DSR requests
  • Determination that the one-month deadline for responding to a DSR request will run from the point at which the request’s scope is clear and the identity of the requestor has been verified, additionally that extensions to the deadline may be justified in certain circumstances, e.g. where the controller receives an unusually high volume of DSR requests, etc.
  • Recognition that compelling interests of the organization, third-parties or society may limit DSR requests;
  • Limitations on excessive, unfounded or abusive requests from Data Subjects which are intended to disrupt the business;
  • Declaration of a proportionate approach in responding to DSR requests, particularly with regards to the cost to the organization.

Furthermore, the White Paper highlights the necessity to change the level of a DPO’s responsibility in regards to DSRs, dividing it across different team rather than making the DPO solely responsible for the DSR requests.

In addition, the Paper demands the EDPB to establish a better harmonization of the application of the DSRs across the European Union, which comes from differences in Guidelines made by the different Data Protection Authorities (DPAs). The EDPB should have in its interest to establish common ground for the handling of DSRs and the related requests, as well as the handling of infringements in the matter by DPAs.

The Paper stems from the EDPB stakeholders’ event on DSR in Brussels on November 4, 2019, and was drafted to visualize certain issues on the matter to the EDPB which have crystalized themselves in the two years since the application of the GDPR.

EU Commission highlights necessary preparations for end of Brexit transitioning period

14. July 2020

The European Commission has published a communication on July 9th, 2020, in order to highlight the main areas of change in view of the upcoming end of the transitional Brexit period before January 1st, 2021.

The communication aims to facilitate readiness and preparations for citizens, businesses and stockholders once the UK leaves the European Union. The European Commission states that readiness for these broad and far reaching changes is key, especially since they will take place regardless of the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.

The communication breaches subjects such as trade in goods, trade in services, energy, travelling and tourism, mobility and social security coordination, company law and civil law, intellectual property, data transfers and protection and international agreements of the EU.

The communication also includes advice in each of those areas and subjects for businesses to be able to start preparations in order to cope with the changes ahead.

With a view on data protection, the European Commission’s communication states that data transfers can continue after January 1st, 2021, however they will have to comply with EU rules and regulations for Third Country Transfers as put forth by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Commission specifies the tools set out in Chapter V of the GDPR, which include Binding Corporate Rules, Standard Contractual Clauses, as well as an Adequacy Decision by the European Commission. The communication states that the EU will try its best to conclude the assessment of the UK regime by the end of 2020, in order to give at least some form of security for data transfers after the transitional period ends. On sides of the United Kingdom, the Adequacy of the European union is guaranteed until 2024.

The advice of the European Commission emphasizes compliancy with the GDPR as the best preparation for the Brexit, but lacks security as to what will happen on January 1st, 2021, especially with regards to the future applicable laws.

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