Category: General

San Francisco took a stand against use of facial recognition technology

15. May 2019

San Francisco is the first major city in the US that has banned the use of facial recognition software by the authorities. The Board of Supervisors decided at 14th May that the risk of violating civil rights by using such technology far outweighs the claimed benefits. According to the current vote, the municipal police and other municipal authorities may not acquire, hold or use any facial recognition technology in the future.

The proposal is due to the fact that using facial recognition software threatens to increase racial injustice and “the ability to live free from constant monitoring by the government”. Civil rights advocates and researchers warn that the technology could easily be misused to monitor immigrants, unjustly target African-Americans or low-income neighborhoods, in case governmental oversight fails.

It sent a particularly strong message to the nation, coming from a city transformed by tech, Aaron Peskin, the city supervisor who sponsored the bill said. However, the ban is part of broader legislation aiming to restrict the use of surveillance technologies. However, airports, ports or other facilities operated by the federal authorities as well as businesses and private users are explicitly excluded from the ban.

Twitter shared location data on iOS devices

Twitter recently published a statement admitting that the app shared location data on iOS devices even if the user had not turned on the “precise location” feature.

The problem appeared in cases in which a user used more than one Twitter account on the same iOS device. If he or she had opted into the “precise location” feature for one account it was also turned on when using another account, even if the user had not opted into using the feature on this account. The information on the real-time location was then passed on to trusted partners of Twitter. However, through technical measures, only the postcode or an area of five square kilometres was passed on to the partners. Twitter accounts or other “Unique Account IDs”, which reveal the identity of the user, were allegedly not transmitted.

According to Twitter’s statement, they have fixed the problem and informed the affected users: “We’re very sorry this happened. We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us and are committed to earning that trust every day”.

Mass monitoring in Xinjiang

3. May 2019

According to research by Human Rights Watch, China’s state and party leaders have had an app developed with which the security authorities in Xinjiang can monitor their inhabitants on a massive scale.

When police officers log into the app, they can see which “conspicuous” behaviours of individual residents have been recorded. According to the published report, the authorities are using the app for illegal mass surveillance and arbitrary arrest of the Uighur Muslim minority living in Xinjiang Province. Up to one million Uighurs are currently said to be imprisoned in “re-education camps”.

Users of the app are asked to enter a variety of information about citizens and explain the circumstances under which it was collected. This includes information such as name or identity card number, but also information such as religious beliefs, blood group or the absence of smartphones. According to Human Rights Watch, the app should also be connected to other databases and alert users if a citizen consumes too much electricity or a mobile phone does not log on to the network for a long time. Citizens should also make themselves “suspicious” if they have little contact with neighbours or do not often enter buildings through the front door.

Human Rights Watch is convinced that this procedure is also illegal in China and that the collected data must be deleted. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese – or other governments will react to the disclosures.

Category: General · Personal Data
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Dutch DPA publishes recommendations for privacy policies

26. April 2019

Recently, the Dutch Data Portection Authority (Autoriteit Personensgegevens) published six recommendations for companies when outlining their privacy policies for the purpose of Art. 24 para 2 of the General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”).

The authorities’ recommendations are a result of their investigation of companies’ privacy policies, which focused on companies that mainly process special categories of personal data, e.g. health data or data relating to individuals’ political beliefs.

The Dutch DPA reviewed privacy policies of several companies such as blood banks or local political parties and it focused on three main points 1) the description of the categories of the personal data 2) the description of the purposes of the processing and 3) the information about data subjects’ rights. They discovered that the descriptions of the data categories and purposes were incomplete or too superficial and thus released six recommendations that companies shall take into consideration when outlining privacy policies.

Those are the six recommendations:

  • Companies should evaluate whether they have to implement privacy policies (taking into account the nature, scope, context and purposes of the processing, as well as the risks for the rights and freedoms of natural persons)
  • Companies should consult internal and/or external expertise such as data protection officers when implementing privacy policies
  • The policy should be outlined in a single document to avoid fragmentation of information
  • The policy should be concrete and specific and therefore not only repeating the provisions of the GDPR
  • The DPA recommends to publish the privacy policies so that data subjects are aware of how the company handles personal data
  • The DPA also suggests to draft a privacy policy even if it is not mandatory to demonstrate that the company is willing to protect personal data

EDPS investigates into contractual agreements between EU institutions and Microsoft

10. April 2019

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is the supervisory authority for all EU institutions and therefore responsible for their compliance with data protection laws. It is currently investigating the compliance of contractual agreements between EU institutions and Microsoft as the different institutions use Microsoft products and services to conduct their day-to-day businesses including the processing of huge amounts of personal data.

The EDPS refers to a Data Processing Impact Assessment carried out last November by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security (we reported) in which they concluded that Microsoft collects and stores personal data of Office users on a large scale without informing them.

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, Assistant EDPS, said: “New data protection rules for the EU institutions and bodies came into force on 11 December 2018. Regulation 2018/1725 introduced significant changes to the rules governing outsourcing. Contractors now have direct responsibilities when it comes to ensuring compliance. However, when relying on third parties to provide services, the EU institutions remain accountable for any data processing carried out on their behalf. They also have a duty to ensure that any contractual arrangements respect the new rules and to identify and mitigate any risks. It is with this in mind that the contractual relationship between the EU institutions and Microsoft is now under EDPS scrutiny.”

The investigation should reveal which products and systems are used right now and whether the existing contractual agreements are compliant with current Data Protection Laws, especially the GDPR.

Category: EU · GDPR · General
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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.

Dutch DPA published update on policy on administrative fines

The Dutch Data Protection Authority, Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens (Dutch DPA), announced an update on its policy regarding administrative fines.

In addition to the Dutch GDPR implementation law the published policy provides insides on how the Dutch DPA will use its fining powers. According to the policy the DPA differentiats three or four categories of infringements. Each infringement is fined with a basic fine and a specific penalty bandwidth.

The DPA calculates the fine in two steps. First the basic fine is applied, second the basic fine is increased or decreased according to the classification to the different categories. Various aspects are included in the calculation of the fine, such as:

  • the nature, the seriousness and duration of the violation,
  • the number of data subjects affected,
  • the extent of the damage and of the data compromised,
  • the intentional or negligent nature of the violation,
  • the measures adopted to mitigate the damages,
  • the measures that were implemented to ensure compliance with the GDPR, including information security measures,
  • prior violations,
  • the level of cooperation with the DPA,
  • the types of data involved,
  • how the DPA became aware of the violation, including whether (and if so, to what extent) the data controller or processor reported the violation,
  • adherence to approved codes of conduct an certification mechanisms,
  • any other applicable aggravating or mitigating factors.

The maximum amount in general is €1.000.000,00, but the fine can be higher in case the Dutch DPA decides that the calculated maximum amount is inappropriate in the particular case.

The EU Commission fined Google 1.49 billion euros regarding antitrust case

21. March 2019

On Wednesday Google was fined 1.49 billion euros by the European Commission in connection with hindering competitors in the online advertising business.

The accusation is that Google has illegally made use of its market dominance.The company inflicted a number of exclusivity clauses in contracts with third-party websites which prevented the company’s competitors from positioning their search adverts on these websites. This concerns a small area in Google’s “advertising machinery”. But still, as a result, other advertisers and website owners “had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers,” claimed the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

In the last two years, this represents the third time that Europe’s antitrust regulators, lead by Danish competition commissioner Margarethe Vestagers, fined the tech company. Google has appealed against the two previous fines. The first fine (2.42 billions euros) was for manipulating online shopping results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service at the expense of its contestants. The second one amounting to 4.34 billion euros concerned mobilephone producers that were forced to use Google’s Android operating system to install the company’s search and browser apps.

Category: EU · EU Commission · European Union · General
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Draft of a new data protection law in Thailand

15. March 2019

Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly approved and endorsed a draft of a new data protection law called Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).The legislative process will be completed within the next weeks. The process includes that the draft will be submitted for royal endorsement and publicated in the Government Gazette.

The draft provides a one year period for implementation of the new requirements. This grace period should help the business operaters to prepare and implement the new obligations.

The draft of the PDPA has followed and replicated the provisions of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to demonstrate that Thailand has an adequate level of data protection. This is necessary for the adoption of an adequacy decision of the European Commission. The adequacy decision requires that the exchange of personal data is based on strong safeguards in regard of EU standards. In case the  European Commission adopts an adequacy decision, as they recently did with Japan, the data flows to Thailand as a third country in terms of the GDPR will be much easier for European companies.

GPEN publishes annual Sweep

14. March 2019

On May 9th, 2019, the „GPEN“(„Global Privacy Enforcement Network“) shared its “2018 Sweep”, an annual intelligence gathering that looked at how well organisations have implemented data privacy accountability into their internal privacy policies and programmes.

GPEN is a global network of more than 60 data protection agencies. The 2018 Sweep was a collaboration between  New Zealand’s (New Zealand Office of the Privacy Commissioner, “OPC”) and  UK’s (UK Information Commissioner’s Office, “ICO”) data protection authorities and was carried out by several data protection authorities across the globe.

The participating authorities reached out to 667 companies with a set of pre-determined questions that focus on key elements of responsible data protection. Those elements were:

  • The importance of internal policies and procedures for data governance;
  • Training and awareness;
  • Transparency about data practices;
  • The assessment and mitigation of risk;
  • Incident Management.

Of the 667 organisations contacted, only 53% (356) provided substantive responses and a large point of those had appointed an individual or a team to ensure compliance with relevant data protection regulations.

The 2018 Sweep shows that many organisations are quite good at providing data protection training to their employees but companies have to ensure that those training are offered to all employees and happen on a regular basis. It was also found that several organisations have processes in place on how to deal with data subject complaints and how to handle data breaches.

Overall, most organisations are aware of data protection and have a good understanding of it. Nevertheless, they have to make sure that they have clear policies and procedures in place and monitor their performance regarding the relevant laws and regulations.

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