Tag: European Commission

Advocate General’s opinion on “Schrems II” is delayed

11. December 2019

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Advocate General’s opinion in the case C-311/18 (‘Facebook Ireland and Schrems’) will be released on December 19, 2019. Originally, the CJEU announced that the opinion of the Advocate General in this case, Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, would be released on December 12, 2019. The CJEU did not provide a reason for this delay.

The prominent case deals with the complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) by privacy activist and lawyer Maximilian Schrems and the transfer of his personal data from Facebook Ireland Ltd. to Facebook Inc. in the U.S. under the European Commission’s controller-to-processor Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs).

Perhaps, the most consequential question that the High Court of Ireland set before the CJEU is whether the transfers of personal data from the EU to the U.S. under the SCCs violate the rights of the individuals under Articles 7 and/or 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Question No. 4). The decision of the CJEU in “Schrems II” will also have ramifications on the parallel case T-738/16 (‘La Quadrature du net and others’). The latter case poses the question whether the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield for data transfers from the EU to the U.S. protects the rights of EU individuals sufficiently. If it does not, the European Commission would face a “Safe Harbor”-déjà vu after approving of the new Privacy Shield in its adequacy decision from 2016.

The CJEU is not bound to the opinion of the Advocate General (AG), but in some cases, the AG’s opinion may be a weighty indicator of the CJEU’s final ruling. The final decision by the Court is expected in early 2020.

European Commission releases third annual Privacy Shield Review report

25. October 2019

The European Commission has released a report on the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield, which represents the third annual report on the performance of the supranational Agreement, after it came into effect in July 2016. The discussions on the review were launched on 12 September 2019 by Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in Washington, DC.

The Privacy Shield protects the fundamental rights of anyone in the European Union whose personal data is transferred to certified companies in the United States for commercial purposes and brings legal clarity for businesses relying on transatlantic data transfer. The European Commission is commited to review the Agreement on an annual basis to ensure that the level of protection certified under the Privacy Shield continues to be at an adequate level.

This year’s report validates the continuous adequacy of the protection for personal data transferred to certified companies in the U.S. from the Europan Union under the Privacy Shield. Since the Framework was implemented, about 5000 companies have registered with the Privacy Shield. The EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality stated that “the Privacy Shield has become a success story. The annual review is an important health check for its functioning“.

The improvements compared to the last annual review in 2018 include the U.S. Department of Commerce’s efforts to ensure necessary oversight in a systematic manner. This is done by monthly checks with samply companies that are certified unter the Privacy Shield. Furthermore, an increasing number of European Citizens are making use of their rights under the Framework, and the resulting response mechanisms are functioning well.

The biggest criticism the European Commission has stated came in the form of the recommendation of firm steps to ensure a better process in the (re)certification process under the Privacy Shield. The time of the (re)certification process allows companies to get recertified within three months after their certification has run out, which can lead to a lack of transparency and confusion, since those companies will still be listed in the registry. A shorter time frame has been proposed by the European Commission to guarantee a higher level of security.

Overall, the third annual review has been seen as a success in the cooperation between the two sides, and both the U.S. and the European officials agree that there is a need for strong and credible enforcement of privacy rules to protect the respective citizens and ensure trust in the digital economy.

European Commission: more protection for whistleblowers

24. April 2018

The European Commission intends to grand more protection for Whistleblowers from retribution when they expose fraud, data breaches and other misdeeds, as Reuters reports. In order to reach this goal, the European Commission proposed new rules last Monday. However, also safeguards against malicious or abusive reports has been considered. The Vice President Francs Timmermans said, “There should be no punishment for doing the right thing”.

Before it can become law, the proposal has to be approved by the EU member states and the European Parliament. Such law would require companies to implement internal channels for whistleblowers while also protecting them from reprisals like sackings, demotion and litigation. Down to the present day, only 10 EU member states grant full protection to whistleblowers.

European Commission: €110 million fine for Facebook

23. May 2017

According to an European Commission Press release from the 18 May 2017, Facebook was fined €110 million by the Commission for providing misleading information about the takeover of WhatsApp.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014. Back then Facebook informed the European Commission that it would not be able to establish reliable automated matching between the users of Facebook and WhatsApp. Two years later, in August 2016, Facebook announced an update to its terms of service and privacy policy. The update included the possibility to link phone numbers of WhatsApp users with their respective Facebook accounts.

According to the Press release and contrary to the statement given by Facebook during the merger process 2014, the Commission has found that the possibility of automated linking of Facebook and WhatsApp users already existed in 2014.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of the competition policy, said: “Today’s decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information.”

It is the first time that the European Commission has imposed a fine on a company for the provision of misleading information since the Merger Regulation came into force in 2004.