On June 28, 2019, the German parliament (Bundestag) passed new legislation imposing several changes to the current German Federal Data Protection Act (“BDSG”). Although many of the changes addressed privacy aspects of criminal proceedings, the new legislation makes an important change for small companies by increasing the threshold to designate a Data Protection Officer (“DPO”). Whereas currently companies have to designate a DPO if they constantly employ at least 10 employees who deal with the automated processing of personal data, the new legislation increases the minimum number of employees from 10 to 20, significantly decreasing the financial and administrative burden for small companies doing business in Germany. This article explains the changes and their impact and explains what companies should do.
The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the European Union (“EU”) recently came into force, creating the world’s biggest open trading zone that covers 635 million people and almost one-third of the world’s total GDP. In the shadow of that agreement, however, another development—the mutual acknowledgment of data protection standards—took place, which should not be overlooked because it sets another world record. On January 23, 2019, the European Commission adopted its adequacy decision on Japan, acknowledging that Japan provides for an adequate level of data protection. Similarly, effective January 23, 2019, the Japanese independent data protection authority, the Personal Information Protection Commission (“PPC”), has also designated countries within the European Economic Area as having an equivalent level of data protection. This mutual acknowledgement created what is being referred to as the “largest area of safe data transfer” in the world.
These developments have important benefits for companies transferring data from the EU to Japan and vice versa, reducing burdens and giving companies greater access to customers. Below, we discuss the developments and describe what companies should consider in the future. READ MORE
On January 21, 2019, the French data protection supervisory authority (“CNIL”) fined Google €50 million (approximately $57 million) for violating the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). The fine penalizes Google for failing to comply with the GDPR’s transparency and notice requirements, and for failing to properly obtain consent from users for ads personalization. This is the largest GDPR fine imposed to date and the first action against a major global tech player. The CNIL’s decision sends an important message to companies that tough enforcement actions are not just a theoretical threat. Companies should look closer at data protection compliance and particularly work on their notices and consent forms. READ MORE
In November, the German Data Protection Conference (committee of the independent German federal and state data protection supervisory authorities) (“DSK”) published a guidance on the processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes under the GDPR. This guidance finally brings some light into the darkness of marketing under the GDPR. READ MORE
(Editors’ note: Thanks to Orrick trainee associate, Arne Senger, for his help with this blog post.)
With its recent ruling in Bărbulescu v. Romania (application no. 61496/08), the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) made a decision of enormous impact for employers in Europe. The decision makes clear that even when private use of business resources is prohibited, employers do not have unlimited access to all communications that occur on corporate systems.
Companies should carefully review their policies to ensure that they can access their corporate IT equipment, at least to the extent permitted by European data privacy law. READ MORE
Today, Orrick announced the launch of our automated General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Readiness Assessment Tool, which makes the EU’s new, complex, data privacy law, the GDPR, more accessible. The free tool is available to all organizations and allows businesses to stress test their compliance against the upcoming GDPR. It segments the GDPR into 14 workable themes and guides the user through a series of dynamic questions relating to each theme. Upon completion of the assessment, the tool provides a complimentary tailored report summarizing the likely key impacts of the GDPR for an organization. READ MORE
Companies required to appoint a data protection officer (“DPO” ) in Europe should carefully consider which candidate is best to select for the job. A company established in Bavaria, Germany, was recently fined by the Bavarian data protection authority (Bayerisches Landesamt für Datenschutzaufsicht, “BayLDA“) for appointing a DPO who at the same time held an operational position as an IT manager. The appointment was deemed to create a conflict of interests between the two functions. This decision could potentially influence the interpretation of the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR“) and thus influence the appointment of DPOs by international companies.
According to a press release of the Data Protection Supervisory Authority in the Land Mecklenburg Vorpommern of November 3, German supervisory authorities have randomly selected 500 companies in Germany and sent them requests for information on their international data transfers. The German supervisory authorities are undertaking this coordinated action in order to increase awareness among companies of the need to ensure data privacy compliance of international data transfers.
Data breach notification requirements are going global. By spring 2018, companies operating in the European Union must comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) data breach notification requirements and the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive’s security incident notification requirements. Stricter and more far-reaching notification obligations underscore the importance of establishing a proactive Security Incident Response Policy to analyze potential legal obligations and prepare to respond to incidents long before they occur.
On September 12, 2016, the Data Protection Authority of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (“DPA NRW”) became one of the first EU data protection authorities to issue guidance on the implementation of the Privacy Shield. Although the guidance is primarily directed at German companies that engage U.S. providers (any third party service providers), U.S. providers should understand the guidance to better understand what German and EU customers may ask of them in addition to EU/U.S. Privacy Shield certification.
The DPA NRW raised the following issues that U.S. companies should consider:
1. Privacy Shield Alone May Not Be Sufficient For Transfers of Personal Data
Pursuant to the guidance, European companies considering transfers of personal data abroad must make a two-step assessment of data privacy compliance.
First, there must be a statutory basis for the transfer that is consistent with the local law of the concerned EU Member State, and as of May 2018, also with the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Second, the personal data held by EU companies should only be transferred to countries with an adequately high level of data protection comparable to the protection in the EU.
Privacy Shield, however, only addresses the latter. More specifically, the EU Commission’s adequacy decision of July 12, 2016 held that U.S. companies certified under the Privacy Shield provide an adequate level of protection.
Practically, what does this mean? In addition to the Privacy Shield certification, U.S. companies may need to enter into a data processing agreement with their EU partner that satisfies the relevant EU Member State statutory provisions that apply to data processing agreements. One example of such statutory provisions is Section 11 of the German Federal Data Protection Act, which contains fairly detailed requirements on the content of data processing agreements. In particular, it requires both parties to agree on rather specific technical and organizational measures that the processor has implemented to protect the security of the data to be processed.
2. Data Controllers Transferring Personal Data under the Privacy Shield Have Additional Duties
Under the guidance, even if a U.S. company is Privacy Shield certified, data controllers are still responsible for independently verifying that data privacy protections are upheld. That means that before transferring personal data to a Privacy Shield certified U.S. company the data controllers must confirm that:
- the Privacy Shield certification actually exists;
- the Privacy Shield certification is up to date (the certification has to be renewed annually); and
- the personal data the data controller intends to transfer is covered by the certification.
Thus, U.S. companies should expect that data controllers will ask the U.S. company questions regarding these points, and likely require the U.S. company to attest that it complies with its privacy obligations with respect to the concerned data subjects. For verification of the status of a Privacy Shield certification, the U.S. Department of Commerce keeps and updates a list of certified companies https://www.privacyshield.gov/list.
For U.S. companies that are using the nine month grace period for compliance with the onward transfer principle of the Privacy Shield, the guidance indicates that the EU data controller should have the U.S. company confirm when it has completed compliance with the onward transfer principle. For U.S. companies, this will underscore the importance of reviewing, and where necessary updating, vendor and service provider contracts to ensure compliance with the Privacy Shield’s onward transfer principle by, among other things, contractually restricting the vendor or service provider’s data processing activities and requiring protection consistent with the Privacy Shield Principles.
3. Employee Data is Special
The Privacy Shield contains special provisions regarding transfers of employee data. If the Privacy Shield certification covers employee data, the company must agree to cooperate and comply with the EU DPAs with respect to such data. This means that the use of such data will still remain subject to EU law, and complaints from data subjects about the use of the data will be adjudicated by the EU DPAs. In addition, the following principles must also be followed by the EU companies transferring employee data to the United States:
- The Privacy Shield Principle of choice may be impacted by generally applicable regulations from EU Member States that do not allow for the continued processing of employee data for purposes other than the purpose for which they were collected. EU data controllers (e.g. in general, the employing entities) may further restrict U.S. companies from such uses and require contractual restrictions.
- U.S. companies and/or the data transferring EU entity (employer) need to respect an employee’s exercise of his/her right of choice against processing their personal data and must not disadvantage the employee in any way.
- If specific protection for employee data is needed, appropriate measures have to be taken, e.g. pseudonymization or anonymization of data should be considered.
4. Privacy Shield May Not Be a Long Term Solution.
Despite raising various concerns about the EU/U.S. Privacy Shield, the DPA NRW agreed to give the program one year to address those concerns. After this initial year, the Article 29 Working Party plans to review whether its concerns have been addressed, and if the Privacy Shield is effective and functioning. Depending on the outcome of this annual assessment, the DPA NRW reserves the right to reevaluate and potentially stop data transfers under the Privacy Shield. Accordingly, U.S. companies relying on the Privacy Shield should carefully weigh the uncertainty it offers as a long term solution.
At the same time, the DPA NRW guidance points out that the outcome of this assessment will also have an impact on other methods of transatlantic data flows such as binding corporate rules and EU model contractual clauses which are currently likewise under scrutiny.
For more details on the Privacy Shield, or for help exploring whether it is appropriate for your company, please contact any member of Orrick’s Cybersecurity and Privacy team.