Tag Archives: Garante Privacy

Recent Data Protection Developments

There are a few interesting developments in the area of data protection that you may have missed and we can recap for you:

  • CONDITIONS TO PROCESS CERTAIN DATA ISSUED BY THE ITALIAN DATA PROTECTION AUTHORITY. According to section 9 paragraph 4 of the GDPR, Member States are entitled to introduce additional conditions for the processing of genetic, biometric or health data. On July 29, 2019 the final version of such conditions issued by the Italian Data Protection Authority has been published on the Official Journal. Such conditions apply to processing of data (i) in employment relationships, (ii) by associations, (iii) by private investigators, (iv) that are genetic or (v) for purposes of scientific research.
  • RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN. On September 24, 2019 the European Court of Justice has issued a judgment on the right to be forgotten in case C‑507/17 against Google Inc. The Court has ruled that “there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject, as the case may be, following an injunction from a supervisory or judicial authority of a Member State, to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine.” While the right to be forgotten must be enforced in all Member States, there is no obligation to do that in all national search engines. The Court, however, added that a supervisory or judicial authority, after balancing all rights concerned, would be able to order de-referencing on all search engines in the world since “EU law does not currently require that the de-referencing granted concern all versions of the search engine in question, it also does not prohibit such a practice.” Given the reaction to the judgment by the Chairperson of the Italian Garante (the data protection authority) Mr. Antonello Soro, it cannot be excluded that that the Garante may issue a universal, rather than EU-wide, dereferencing order.
  • PROCESSING FOR “OWN PURPOSES”. A med-tech company has been sanctioned for having used patient data (medical scans) in a public tender process and in a subsequent litigation in an anonymized form. The company had been appointed by the hospital as a data processor but, the Garante ruled, had further processed such patient data for an own purpose rather than for the purposes mandated by the data controller (i.e., maintenance of equipment generating scans for patients).
  • AGAIN ON THE RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN. In a decision by the Italian Garante dated July 24, 2019 Google LLC has been ordered to de-reference from its search engine news about criminal facts occurred in 2007 for which an individual, without any public role, had been condemned, but who had been fully rehabilitated.
  • CONSUMER CREDIT CODE OF CONDUCT. On September 19, 2019 the Italian Garante approved a new code of conduct for companies operating in the areas of consumer credit, credit worthiness analysis and payment punctuality.

 

Drones and Privacy: Risks and Recommendations.

Drones Are Increasingly Used in the Civil Field. The civil use of drones is increasing, as also witnessed by the DRONITALY event that will be hosted near the Milan Expo in late September. And attorneys who are contributors to this blog find it certainly exciting when new technologies become widespread and thus present legal challenges!

When a new technology starts to become mainstream, the lack of adequate legal provisions is often deplored. In truth, the interpreter needs to take a deep breath and (i) identify the applicable laws, as well as (ii) understand the unique risks entailed by such novel technology, while comparing them with previous technologies. In the case of unmanned vehicle systems, commonly referred to as drones, it does not look like the applicable rules are lacking, but they are simply difficult to apply.

EU Data Protection Authorities Scratch Their Heads Together. The data protection authorities of the European Union, who work together within the “Article 29 Data Protection Working Party”, have recently tackled the issue of drones. The June 16, 2015 opinion by the “Article 29 Data Protection Working Party” (“Opinion”) is especially interesting because of its solid logic approach, which starts with a careful analysis of potential data protection risks linked to the increased use of drones, goes on to finding specific issues that are unique to drones, and ends with a number of recommendations to operators, manufacturers, regulators and law enforcement officials.

Unique Challenges to Personal Data. Drones are aerial vehicles that can be used for a host of activities (including – as pointed out by the Opinion – dull, dirty or dangerous operations, also known as “3D”). The Opinion is careful in pointing out that the use of drones per se is not problematic: it is the possibility to equip drones with recorders of audio and video data that poses challenges to privacy. Additionally, drones overcome obstacles such as walls or fences, and small drones may even enter buildings. Subjects whose data are recorded are often unaware of the processing of their data and, if they are or suspect that they might be, this may trigger a “chilling effect” on their conduct. In short, the principles of purpose limitation, data minimization and proportionality are at risk. Therefore, the Opinion strongly encourages a data protection impact assessment to check how, given the circumstances, the processing of data by a drone may impact the privacy of interested subjects. The assessment must start early on, and the rule of data protection by design must be respected by manufacturers and users. Such assessment must take into account:

  • The Applicability (or Inapplicability) of Exceptions. When personal data is processed by sensors installed on the drone, there is no doubt that data protection legislation applies. The exception for personal data processed in the course of a personal or household activity is never compatible with the sharing of such data on the internet. Law enforcement may also be found as a legal basis for processing, but it must be lawful, necessary and proportionate: indiscriminate surveillance is not acceptable.
  • Informed Consent. Freely given, specific and informed consent is difficult to achieve when it comes to drones. The Opinion suggests to try anything that may work (they, more elegantly, talk about a “multi-channel approach”): from signposts to symbols, signals, lights, registration marks or the publication on the internet of information on drone activities, so that a specific drone can not only be detected by interested subjects, but also linked to a certain data controller. Other grounds for lawful data processing may be found depending on the circumstances, such as performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party (e.g., security services offered through drones only recording the data subject’s property), processing to protect the vital interests of the data subject (e.g., rescue of victims of accidents) or for the purposes of a legitimate interest (e.g., wildlife research).
  • Security Measures. Personal data gathered must be safely stored and communicated (encryption is encouraged).
  • Anonymization or Deletion of Data. Data must not be kept for a period that goes beyond what is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the processing. Data must be accessed only on a limited basis and anonymized or deleted as soon as possible.

Many of the legal issues connected with drones are similar to those arising in case of video surveillance, already tackled by the Italian Data Protection Authority in 2010, with the notable exception that providing information to data subjects may prove to be much more challenging in case of aerial vehicles that fly at a distance.

Medical Apps and the Law, Part II – Medical Apps: Helpful or Harmful?

A BOOMING MARKET. The idea of running software on a mobile device with healthcare uses has been discussed as early as 1996[1]. However, the issue has assumed explosive proportions in recent years, thanks to the spreading of an “app mentality” among health care professionals and consumers, and its potential, given cloud computing, social networks and big data analytics, could be yet to be realized. According to a March 2014 BCC report, this growing trend will be continuing in the next years[2]. App stores offering thousands of medical app also confirm the trend, as about 97,000 mobile health apps in 62 app stores according to a Research2Guidance market report of last year. Hardware manufacturers are certainly not immune to the medical app fervor, and – for example – the new smartphone Gear 2 Neo by Samsung, launched on April 11, 2014 by Samsung in 125 countries, incorporates a heart rate sensor.

 

ACCORDING TO THE EU COMMISSION, MEDICAL APPS AND E-HEALTH HAVE GREAT POTENTIAL.  What is the view of the authorities on this phenomenon? The potential of apps makes them app enthusiasts, the reality of apps worries them. The European Commission believes in medical apps, which can be leveraged in order to eliminate barriers to smarter, safer, patient-centred health services. Further, digital health could also be a promising factor to cut Member States’ budget[3] while – in the words of the Commission – “putting patients in the driving seat[4]. The reality of the app market, however, does not necessarily boost patient empowerment. In fact, the Commission noted that there are substantial risks connected with the way apps are currently marketed: information to consumers is not clear, the trader’s contact details are not easy to find, the use of the term “free” is often misleading[5].

 

ENFORCEMENT ACTION BY THE ITALIAN DATA PROTECTION AUTHORITY. On September 10, 2014 the Italian Data Protection Authority has issued a warning regarding data protection risks inherent to medical apps (“Medical Apps: More Transparency Is Needed On Data Use”) promising future sanctions. The Authority found that insufficient information to users prior to installation, as well as the processing of excessive data. The survey conducted by the Italian Data Protection Authority involved a total of 1,200 apps and the findings thus obtained were striking: (i) barely 15% of them provided meaningful privacy notices; and (ii) in 59% of the apps reviewed the Authority found it hard to locate pre-installation privacy notices. The stance taken by the Italian Data Protection Authority echoes the Opinion 02/2013 by The “Article 29 Data Protection Working Party”, which had identified lack of transparency, lack of free informed consent; poor security measures; disregard for the principle of purpose limitation requiring processing of personal data only for specific and legitimate purposes.

 

CONSENT IN WRITTEN FORM: A REQUIREMENT PECULIAR TO ITALIAN LAW.  Italian legislation includes a couple of additional requirements, which could kill the medical app market. We note, however, that they have not been mentioned by the Italian Data Protection Authority in their September 10, 2014 warning so it is unclear whether there is any appetite for enforcing them. In addition to a specific authorization by the Data Protection Authority, typically substituted by a general authorization such as this, Section 23 of the Data Protection Code requires that consent to process sensitive data, such as health data, must be given in written form, a requirement which is not satisfied by a mere “click” on the smartphone, but would only be satisfied by the digital or qualified electronic signature in accordance with Italian legislation. This obstacle could be solved only when (and if) the proposed EU Data Protection Regulation enters into force and repeals the existing Italian Data Protection Code, as consent to process sensitive data shall have to be “freely given, specific, informed and explicit” and the controller shall bear the burden of proof of such consent, but consent in written form would no longer be required.

[1] Regulation of health apps: a practical guide”, d4Research, January 2012, citing material from the Conference of the American Medical Informatics Association Fall Symposium of 1996.

[2]This market is expected to grow to $2.4 billion in 2013 and $21.5 billion in 2018 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54.9% over the five-year period from 2013 to 2018”.

[3]In Italy, overall savings from the introduction of ICTs in the Health Sector are estimated to be around 11.7% of National health expenditure (i.e., €12.4 billion). Savings from digital prescriptions alone are estimated to be around €2 billion”. European Commission Memo of December 7, 2012 “eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020: Frequently Asked Questions”.

[4] It should be noted that, while the Commission is a fervent proponent of eHealth (see also the recent Green Paper on mHealth), there are strong limitations to its actions given its lack of competence in healthcare delivery and financing, which is entirely up to Member States. The effectiveness of eHealth solutions in Europe require the commitment of Member States to implement organizational changes which make patient-centric eHealth solutions an integral part of their healthcare systems, a task that each Member State is pursuing with various degrees. A March 24, 2014 press release by the European Commission commenting on two European surveys on the use of eHealth (including Electronic Health Records, Health Information Exchange, Tele-health and Personal Health Records) showed that many critical issues still exist: lack of penetration, lack of interoperability, and lack of regulatory certainty, to name a few.

[5] Focus of the Italian Antitrust Authority has so far been on game apps, rather than medical apps: it, too, found that apps were misleadingly presented to users as free, while they were not.