EDBP: Guidelines on the territorial scope of the GDPR

29. November 2018

As the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) announced, the board adopted new draft guidelines on the territorial scope of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The goal of the guidelines is to “provide a common interpretation of the territorial scope of the GDPR and provide further clarification on the application of the GDPR in various situations”. The territorial scope is laid down in Article 3 GDPR.

In the meantime, the EDPB published a version of the guidelines for public consultation.

The guidelines cover the following topics:

  • Application of the establishment criterion – Art 3 (1)
  • Application of the targeting criterion – Art 3 (2)
  • Processing in a place where Member State law applies by virtue of public international law
  • Representative of controllers or processors not established in the Union

The guidelines not only describe and clarify the regulatory content of Article 3 GDPR. It also provides various examples from a practical point of view in order to simplify the issue. For controllers and processors of personal data, it is of significant relevance to know whether one falls under the scope of the GDPR considering the legal and possible financial consequences.

Therefore, legal terms should be as clear as possible. Already on the first pages, an example for the necessity to clarify and specify the regulatory content of Art 3 GDPR can be found. The EDPB points out, that the notion “establishment” (unlike the notion “main establishment”, which is defined in Article 4 (16) GDPR) is not defined in Article 3 GDPR, resulting in an attempt to clarify the term.

Category: GDPR
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LinkedIn processed 18 million non-user email addresses to target Facebook advertisings

28. November 2018

The business and employment-oriented service LinkedIn processed the email addresses of 18 million non-members and targeted them with advertising on Facebook without permission.

A non-LinkedIn user issued a complaint to the Data Protection Commission that their email address had been obtained and used by the organisation for the purposes of targeted advertising on Facebook. Within Ireland’s Data Protection Commission the concerns grew regarding LinkedIn’s processing of personal data of non-users. Therefore, the office conducted an audit of the multinational LinkedIn Ireland, home to the company’s EU headquarters, and stated that it used million of e-mail addresses of non-users.

Also involved is LinkedIn Corp in the US, which processes data on behalf of LinkedIn Ireland. They targeted – by means of 18 million addresses – the individuals in Facebook. According to the commissioner’s annual report LinkedIn in the US carried out the processing in the absence of instructions from LinkedIn in Ireland (the controller). Said annual report covers the period from January 1st to May 24th 2018. Then the old office of the Data Protection Commissioner ceased to exist due to the General Data Protection Regulation. The new Data Protection Commission came into existence on May 25th 2018.

Brexit: Draft withdrawal agreement – GDPR remains applicable for foreseeable future

23. November 2018

Last week the U.K. and EU could conclude a draft withdrawal agreement for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union as of 30th March 2019. The agreement covers the “divorce” of both of them and a non-binding political statement concerning their ideas for the future relations. The declaration is referring to a commitment regarding an ambitious free trade agreement, containing areas including financial services, continued free flow of data, and other subjects relating to the EU such as defense matters have been picked up.

After the U.K. will have left the EU in March 2019 a 21-month transition period is planned in order to facilitating business sectors in their planning. Thus, at least until the beginning of 2021, EU regulations would remain effective keeping the U.K. in the single market and Customs Union. However, this time frame could also be extended by common agreement.

With regard to data protection, the withdrawal agreement directly addresses data protection and security issues in Articles 70 to 74. These provisions stipulate that EU data protection rules, including the GDPR, shall apply in the U.K. when using personal data of data subjects outside the United Kingdom exchanged before the end of the transition period. Furthermore, after the end of the transition period, the U.K. is obliged to further apply these EU rules to the processing of “EU personal data”, until the U.K. data protection laws to be enacted ensure an adequate level of data protection which is “essentially equivalent” to that of the EU.  In the process of becoming subject to this formal adequacy decision to be established by the EU Commission the U.K.’s applicable data protection regime has to be assessed in the first place. In the event of annulling or repealing the adequacy decision, the provisions of the withdrawal agreement would be relevant for the EU personal data transferred to the U.K. to ensure the same “essentially equivalent” standard of data protection directly.

In other words, under the concluded agreement, the GDPR as well as the corresponding Data Protection Act would remain the applicable data protection law in the U.K. for the foreseeable future.

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.”

Facebook: private messages from more than 81.000 people for sale

5. November 2018

According to a BBC report, more than 81.000 Facebook profiles were hacked. Private messages and other information was offered for 10 cents per account.

The BBC had the allegations checked by the IT security company Digital Shadows, who confirmed that over 81.000 of the profiles posted online contained private messenger messages. Furthermore, data from more than 176.000 accounts, including e-mail addresses and telephone numbers were available. This information did not necessarily have to come from a hack, as some of it was also open on public Facebook profiles

The BBC Russian Service also emailed the address that offered the data. The respondent – someone called “John Smith”- wrote that the offered data was neither from profiles involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal nor of the recent security breach revealed in September. He said that his hacker group could offer data from 20 million users, of whom 2.7 million were Russians. But Digital Shadows doubts this because Facebook should have noticed such a big leak.

Facebook reported that its security has not been compromised. The data might be obtained through malicious browser extensions. According to Facebook executive Guy Rosen, they “have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores”.

 

Cathay Pacific announces data leak: 9.4 million passengers affected

25. October 2018

As the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific announced on October 24, unauthorised access to a system containing data of up to 9.4 million passengers has been discovered. The data leak was detected during a routine check and immediately reported to the authorities and the police. As reported by the airline, no personal information has been misused.

According to Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg, the airline immediately initiated a thorough investigation with the support of a cybersecurity firm and wants to further strengthen their IT security measures.

Among the concerned data are: passenger names; nationalities; phone numbers; passport numbers and identity card numbers. But “no –one’s travel or loyalty profile was accessed in full, and no passwords were compromised”, said Hogg.

In its statement, Cathay Pacific underlined that the systems concerned are completely separate from the flight operating system and that flight safety is not affected.

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.

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