Tag Archives: privacy

The European Data Protection Board’s Revised Guidelines on the Territorial Scope of GDPR Are Out (With Some Interesting Examples). Check Them Out!

One of many innovations introduced by GDPR is its territorial scope.

In fact, the two main criteria defining the territorial scope of the GDPR – the establishment criterion (Art. 3.1 of GDPR) and the targeting criterion (Art. 3.2 of GDPR) – have been drafted in such a way to avoid easy way outs when it comes to the protection of individuals and their personal data.

Last November, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) published a revised version of its Guidelines 3/2018 on the territorial scope of the GDPR, which provide some interesting remarks and examples on both the establishment and the targeting criteria. We will concentrate on a selection of a few of them.

THE ESTABLISHMENT CRITERION

EDPB suggests a threefold approach in determining whether or not certain processing of personal data falls within the scope of the GDPR on the basis of the establishment criterion.

1) Is there an establishment in the EU?

This is, of course, an answer that must be given having regard to the effective and real exercise of activities through stable arrangements, rather than to other formal circumstances, such as the legal form of a certain entity.

It is worth noting that, on the issue, the EDPB made sure to remind – by making reference to the Weltimmo case – that the threshold to be applied in determining whether or not an arrangement can be deemed as stable can be quite low, for example, when it comes to the provision of online services. Even a single employee may be sufficient to constituting a stable arrangement, if that employee acts with a sufficient degree of stability.

2) Is processing carried out in the context of the activities of the establishment?

The EDPB points out two factors that must be taken into consideration: (i) the relationship between a controller or processor outside the EU and its local establishment in the Union; and (ii) revenue raising in the EU.

3) There is no need that the processing takes place in the EU!

The place of processing is irrelevant, if processing takes place in the context of the activities of the establishment. So is the geographical location of the data subjects in question.

In addition to the threefold approach, the EDPB offers some hints on how the application of the establishment criterion me be affected by the relationship between the controller and the processor. To such regard, the first thing to note is that the relationship between a controller and a processor does not per se trigger the application of GDPR to both. Furthermore, it is more likely that the establishment within the EU of the controller will lead to the application of GDPR to the processor located abroad than vice versa. In fact, on one hand, when a controller subject to GDPR chooses a processor located outside the EU, the processor located outside the EU will become indirectly subject to the obligations imposed by GDPR by virtue of contractual arrangements under Art. 28 of GDPR. On the other hand, unless other factors are at play, the processor’s EU establishment will not per se trigger the application of GDPR to the non-EU controller, because by instructing the EU processor the non-EU controller is not carrying out any processing in the context of the activities of the processor in the EU.

THE TARGETING CRITERION

The first thing to which EDPB draws our attention to is a simple, yet important, fact. Whenever the targeting criterion leads to the application of GDPR to controllers or processors which are not EU-established, such controllers or processor will not benefit from the one-stop shop mechanism, allowing them to interact with only one Lead Supervisory Authority. That is an important factor to be taken into consideration when assessing the opportunity to establish an entity within the EU to offer services or monitor data subjects.

Having said that, the EDPB recommends a twofold approach for the targeting criterion.

1) Are data subjects “in the Union”?

Under the targeting criterion, GDPR will be applied to controllers or processors not established in the EU insofar as processing is related to the offering of goods and services to / monitoring of data subjects in the EU.

With regard to the presence of the data subject in the EU, no reference is made to any formal legal status of the data subject (e.g. residence or citizenship): it is sufficient that data subject are physically located in the EU at the moment of offering  goods or services or at the moment when their behaviors are being monitored.

Nevertheless, that will not be sufficient to extend the application of GDPR to such activities that are only inadvertently or incidentally targeting individuals in the EU. Hence, whenever processing relates to a service offered only outside the EU – which is not withdrawn by individuals entering the EU – the relevant processing will not be subject to GDPR.

2) Offering of goods or service / monitoring of data subjects’ behavior, yes or no?

The first activity triggering the application of the targeting criterion is the offering of goods or services. It is interesting to note, to such regard, how the EDPB recalls the CJEU case law on Council Regulation 44/2001 on jurisdiction. Although underlining some differences, the notion of “directing an activity” can be applied to assess the presence of a goods or services offer by non-EU controllers/processor.

The factors that the EDPB lists, considering them a good indication, especially in combination with one another, of an offer in the UE of goods and services, are taken from the Pammer case and they include:

  • The EU or at least one Member State is designated by name with reference to the good or service offered;
  • The data controller or processor pays a search engine operator for an internet referencing service in order to facilitate access to its site by consumers in the Union; or the controller or processor has launched marketing and advertisement campaigns directed at an EU country audience;
  • The international nature of the activity at issue, such as certain tourist activities;
  • The mention of dedicated addresses or phone numbers to be reached from an EU country;
  • The use of a top-level domain name other than that of the third country in which the controller or processor is established, for example “.de”, or the use of neutral top-level domain names such as “.eu”;
  • The description of travel instructions from one or more other EU Member States to the place where the service is provided;
  • The mention of international clientele composed of customers domiciled in various EU Member States, in particular by presentation of accounts written by such customers;
  • The use of a language or a currency other than that generally used in the trader’s country, especially a language or currency of one or more EU Member states;
  • The data controller offers the delivery of goods in EU Member States.

With reference to monitoring activities, the EDPB first reminds us that not only data subjects must be in the EU but, as a cumulative criterion, the monitored behavior must take place within the territory of the EU.

It then offers a fairly comprehensive list of examples of monitoring activities, including:

  • Behavioral advertisement;
  • Geo-localization activities, in particular for marketing purposes;
  • Online tracking through the use of cookies or other tracking techniques such as fingerprinting;
  • Personalized diet and health analytics services online;
  • CCTV;
  • Market surveys and other behavioral studies based on individual profiles;
  • Monitoring or regular reporting on an individual’s health status.

EDPB EXAMPLES SUMMARIZED

Based on the above, here’s a summary of some interesting examples (with some not-so-obvious outcomes):

WITHIN THE TERRITORIAL SCOPE OF GDPR OUTSIDE THE TERRITORIAL SCOPE OF GDPR
Case Why? Case Why?
An e-commerce website is operated by a company based in China. The personal data processing activities of the company are exclusively carried out in China. The Chinese company has established a European office in Berlin in order to lead and implement commercial prospection and marketing campaigns towards EU markets. The processing is indeed inextricably linked to the activities of the European office in Berlin relating to commercial prospection and marketing campaign towards EU market. A hotel and resort chain in South Africa offers package deals through its website, available in English, German, French and Spanish. The company does not have any office, representation or stable arrangement in the EU. Absence of any representation or stable arrangement of the hotel and resort chain within the territory of the Union.
A French company has developed a car-sharing application exclusively addressed to customers in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The service is only available in those three countries but all personal data processing activities are carried out by the data controller in France. Processing of personal data is carried out in the context of the activities of an establishment of a data controller in the Union. An Australian company offers a mobile news and video content service, based on users’ preferences and interest. Users can receive daily or weekly updates. The service is offered exclusively to users located in Australia, who must provide an Australian phone number when subscribing. An Australian subscriber of the service travels to Germany on holiday and continues using the service. The service is not targeting individuals in the Union, but targets only individuals in Australia.
A start-up established in the USA, without any business presence or establishment in the EU, provides a city-mapping application for tourists. The application processes personal data concerning the location of customers using the app (the data subjects) once they start using the application in the city they visit, in order to offer targeted advertisement for places to visits, restaurant, bars and hotels. The application is available for tourists while they visit New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris and Rome. The US start-up, via its city mapping application, is specifically targeting individuals in the Union. A US company, without any establishment in the EU, processes personal data of its employees that were on a temporary business trip to France, Belgium and the Netherlands for human resources purposes, in particular to proceed with the reimbursement of their accommodation expenses and the payment of their daily allowance, which vary depending on the country they are in. While the processing activity is specifically connected to persons on the territory of the Union (i.e. employees who are temporarily in France, Belgium and the Netherlands) it does not relate to an offer of a service to those individuals, but rather is part of the processing necessary for the employer to fulfil its contractual obligation and human resources duties related to the individual’s employment. The processing activity does not relate to an offer of service.

Italian Data Protection Legislation Is Enacted

Finally (!), the Italian government has enacted a legislative decree that amends the existing Data Protection Code in order to ensure its compliance with the GDPR. Additionally, the Italian legislator has filled the gaps that the GDPR had left to Member States.

Here are the main takeaways in the health area:

  • Processing of health data, genetic data or biometric data requires compliance with specific protection measures (“misure di garanzia”) that will be issued by the Italian Data Protection Authority bi-annually in light of guidelines of the European Committee, of technological developments and in the interest of data circulation within the European Union.
  • Under section 9.2.g) of the GDPR, personal data relating to health can be processed when processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest, on the basis of Union or Member State law. The Italian legislator has listed the circumstances under which such substantial public interest exists, i.e., inter alia:
    • administrative activities connected to those of diagnosis, assistance or health or social therapy;
    • obligations of the national health service and of subjects operating in the health area;
    • hygiene and safety tasks to be carried out on the workplace and for safety and health of the population, for protection of the population and to safeguard life and physical integrity;
    • management and assessment of health assistance;
    • social protection of maternity and abortion, addictions, assistance, social integrations and rights of disabled individuals.
  • Data protection rights of deceased individuals may be exercised by those who have act on the basis of an own interest, in protection of the interested person, or for family reasons that are worth of protection, unless – with respect of services of information society – the interested person has expressly prohibited through a written statement the exercise of such rights by third parties. Such statement must be unequivocal, specific, informed and free, and may also relate only to some of the rights. The prohibition must not prejudice the exercise by third parties of patrimonial rights arising from death of the interested person nor the right to judicial defense.
  • The prescription of drugs that do not require the indication of the name of the interested person will be subject to specific measures (misure di garanzia) also in order to control the correctness of the prescription, for administrative purposes and for the purpose of scientific research in public health.
  • Reuse of personal data for purposes of scientific research or for statistical purposes must be previously authorized by the Data Protection Authority, who can set forth conditions for the processing. Reuse of genetic data cannot be authorized. However, processing of personal data collected for clinical activity for the purpose of research by research hospitals (IRCCS, both private and public) is not deemed to be reuse.
  • Processing of health personal data for the purpose of scientific research in the medical, biomedical or epidemiological field without the patient consent is in any case subject to a favorable opinion by the competent ethics committee and a consultation with the Data Protection Authority.
  • Criminal sanctions continue to apply in case of illegal data processing and can be up to 6 years of imprisonment.
  • The Data Protection Authority has 90 days to indicate which of the measures contained in the general authorizations it already adopted are compatible with the GDPR. The ones which are not will cease to apply.

May 25, 2018: Did You Survive the GDPR D-Day?

Last May 25 the GDPR came into force. It was hard not to notice given the inundation of emails that everyone received, as well as the clear signs of burnout in the eyes of GDPR experts.

Here are my personal top 3 takeaways from that experience:

  • The flood of data protection emails received on May 25 showed me how my data had been disseminated all over the place and archived for a really long time. I had some recollection of only a few of those who wrote me to share their most recent privacy policy (and remind me how they deeply, deeply care about privacy!), since many may have bought, inherited or just collected my data a long time ago. It reminded me that those data subjects’ rights are an empowering tool, which I intend to use more frequently in the future.

 

  • The Law (capital “L”) showed its full might and power on May 25, something which surprised even those, like me, who work with legal requirements all day every day. Look at what companies do when you threaten a 4% fine on their worldwide turnover! (Incidentally, this reminded me why politics is important and why people who are indifferent to politics are wrong: this stuff does make a difference in our lives).

 

  • The Italian authorities (mostly the government and parliament) lost yet another opportunity to be helpful to citizens. We had been waiting for a national data protection law for months, but no such law was enacted before May 25. Until that happens, Italians are supposed to assess, for each and every provision of the Data Protection Code, whether or not it conflicts with the GDPR. How practical.

GDPR: do’s and dont’s

Seminario GDPR 03052018

Paola Sangiovanni will be speaking at a seminar on GDPR on May 3, 2018 at Gitti and Partners’ office in Brescia.

The seminar, followed by a reception, will focus on DOs and DONTs for small and medium enterprises in the field of data protection.

While Italians are still awaiting the enactment of a national data protection law that will clarify the relationship between GDPR and the previous privacy legislation, GDPR compliance efforts must nonetheless continue.

Join us in this interesting seminar to find out what should be done and what should be avoided!

2017 New Year’s Privacy Resolution: Road to Compliance with the New European Privacy Framework

Year 2017 already brought to us some exciting change. The beginning of the year is also the perfect time for appraisals of the past and resolutions for the near future. Whether we see it as a welcome enhancement of personal data rights or simply as another burdensome European set of requirements, 2016 delivered the new European General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation EU 2016/679, “GDPR”). Already 233 days passed since GDPR entered into force and 498 days are left until the new Regulation will start to apply on May 25, 2018. Roughly, one third of the time given to comply with the new regulatory framework has already gone by. Then, perhaps, the beginning of 2017 can be a good chance to ask ourselves what has already been done in the first 233 days and what still needs to be done in the future 498 days in order not to miss May 2018’s deadline.

The GDPR imposes a much more burdensome level of compliance requirements to companies acting as data controllers and data processors.

Some of them require the assessment and preparation of organizational and implementing measures that need to be put in place well in advance of May 2018.

  • Data controllers and data processors must appoint a data protection officer (“DPO”). The controller and the processor shall ensure that the DPO is involved, properly and in a timely manner, in all issues which relate to the protection of personal data. The controller and processor shall support the DPO in performing his/her tasks by providing resources necessary to carry out those tasks and access to personal data and processing operations, and to maintain his/her expert knowledge. The controller and processor shall also ensure that the DPO does not receive any instructions regarding the exercise of those tasks. Furthermore, the DPO shall not be dismissed or penalized by the controller or the processor for performing his tasks and shall directly report to the highest management level of the controller or the processor.
  • Data protection by design and by default will have to be implemented. The data controller: (i) both at the time of the determination of the means for processing and at the time of the processing itself, must “implement appropriate technical and organizational measures, such as pseudonymisation, which are designed to implement data-protection principles, such as data minimization, in an effective manner and to integrate the necessary safeguards into the processing in order to meet the requirements of [the GDPR] and protect the rights of data subjects” and (ii) “to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures for ensuring that, by default, only personal data which are necessary for each specific purpose of the processing are processed”.
  • A data protection impact assessment must be carried out. Such impact assessment must contain: a systematic description of the envisaged processing operations and the purposes of the processing, including, where applicable, the legitimate interest pursued by the controller; an assessment of the necessity and proportionality of the processing operations in relation to the purposes; an assessment of the risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects; the measures envisaged to address the risks, including safeguards, security measures and mechanisms to ensure the protection of personal data and to demonstrate compliance with GDPR.
  • Data controllers must guarantee the effectiveness of the data subject’s right to be forgotten and right to portability. This requires an assessment of the adequacy of the technical and organizational instruments currently available and, possibly, their improvement. More specifically, data controllers must be able to fulfill: (i) in relation to the right to be forgotten, their obligation to “take reasonable steps, including technical measures, to inform controllers which are processing the personal data that the data subject has requested the erasure by such controllers of any links to, or copy or replication of, those personal data”; (ii) as regards to the right to portability, their obligation to allow the data subjects to effectively exercise their right to “receive the personal data concerning him or her, which he or she has provided to a controller, in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format and have the right to transmit those data to another controller”.
  • Data controllers shall notify personal data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of it. This imposes on controllers the preparation of appropriate notification forms, as well as organizational measures to guarantee adequate resources to complete such task.
  • The mandatory content of the written contract between the data controller and the data processor requires a revision of all such contracts. They shall include, inter alia, the obligations of the processor to: process the personal data only on documented instructions from the controller, including with regard to transfers of personal data to a third country or an international organization; ensure that persons authorized to process the personal data have committed themselves to confidentiality or are under an appropriate statutory obligation of confidentiality; delete or return all the personal data to the controller after the end of the provision of services relating to processing, including copies; make available to the controller all information necessary to demonstrate compliance with the obligations under GDPR; allow for and contribute to audits, including inspections, conducted by the controller or another auditor mandated by the controller.
  • Information notice forms currently in use will need to be revised. In fact, information to be provided to data subjects must include, inter alia: the contact details of the DPO; the legal basis for the processing; the fact that the controller intends to transfer personal data to a third country or international organization and the existence or absence of an adequacy decision by the Commission; the period for which the personal data will be stored, or if that is not possible, the criteria used to determine that period; the existence of the right to data portability; the existence of the right to withdraw consent at any time for processing based on consent; the existence of the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority; the existence of automated decision-making, including profiling.
  • Data controllers and data processors must keep record of processing activities under their responsibility. Records to be kept by data controllers shall contain all of the following information: the name and contact details of the controller and, where applicable, the joint controller, the controller’s representative and the DPO; the purposes of the processing; a description of the categories of data subjects and of the categories of personal data; the categories of recipients to whom the personal data have been or will be disclosed including recipients in third countries or international organizations; where applicable, transfers of personal data to a third country or an international organization, including the identification of that third country or international organization and the documentation of suitable safeguards; where possible, the envisaged time limits for erasure of the different categories of data; where possible, a general description of the technical and organizational security measures. Records to be kept by data processors shall include: the name and contact details of the processor or processors and of each controller on behalf of which the processor is acting, and, where applicable, of the controller’s or the processor’s representative, and the DPO; the categories of processing carried out on behalf of each controller; where applicable, transfers of personal data to a third country or an international organization, including the identification of that third country or international organization and the documentation of suitable safeguards; where possible, a general description of the technical and organizational security measures. Data controllers and data processors shall therefore dedicate and organize resources to be able to start keeping such records.

All this may appear daunting. Nevertheless, 498 days are more than enough to take all necessary steps, if we let one of our New Year’s resolutions be to timely walk the road to compliance with the GDPR.

Italian Data Protection Authority Authorizes the “Privacy Shield”

The Italian Data Protection Authority has authorized the transfer of personal data to the United States on the basis of the new “Privacy Shield” program, designed by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide companies with a mechanism to comply with EU data protection requirements when transferring personal data from the European Union to the United States. On July 12, 2016 the European Commission deemed that the “Privacy Shield” offered adequate protection and could enable data transfers under EU legislation.

The Italian Data Protection Authority has now issued a general authorization for the processing and transfer of personal data in accordance with the “Privacy Shield” program and with the European Commission adequacy decision. The general authorization will be published today on the Official Gazette. Italian companies and multinational corporations active in Italy will therefore be able to transfer personal data to United States entities adhering to the “Privacy Shield”.

This latest decision comes after the expiration of the previous general authorization allowing the transfer of personal data to the United States pursuant to the “Safe Harbor” framework, held invalid by the Court of Justice of the European Union on October 22, 2015.

The European Commission plans to implement a continuous monitoring of the “Privacy Shield”, while at the moment it remains unclear how many business entities will seize this opportunity and join in the new program.

Is Privacy Really a Fundamental Right?

Privacy of individuals is framed as a fundamental right in the European Union. In fact, the new European Union Regulation no. 2016/679 reiterates this in the very first of its “whereas”.

Yet, it is clear to everyone that such “fundamental” nature is regularly questioned by various factors, and particularly:

  • Technological progress, coupled with people’s growing addiction to smartphones, allowing the collection of an amazing number of personally identifiable information and leading to big banks of intrusive data; and
  • Security threats that prompt governments to closely monitor citizens’ behavior.

Once upon a time courts were called to decide on how to balance conflicting rights. These days, the act of balancing privacy and other issues has become much more common and it is in the hands of a variety of subjects, such as data processors, who must carry out a data protection impact assessment according to Section 35 of the EU Regulation no. 2016/679, and data protection authorities, who provide both general guidelines and specific advice.

A couple of recent decisions by the Italian Data Protection Authority have led me to believe that the Authority is readier than before to accept that there are justified limits to the right to privacy:

  • On July 14, 2016, the Italian Data Protection Authority has decided that a bank is allowed to analyze behavioral/biometric information regarding its customers (such as mouse movements or pressure on the touch screen) as a measure to fight identity theft and internet banking fraud. Of course, a number of limitations have been set by the Authority, in addition to consent of the customer/data subject, such as specific safety measures, purpose and time limitations, and the segregation of the customer names from the bank’s IT provider.
  • On July 28, 2016, the same Authority has granted its favorable opinion to the use of a face recognition software at the Olimpico stadium during soccer games in order to check that the data on the ticket and the face of the person actually attending the event correspond. Provided that strong security measures are used and that the processing is carried out by police forces, the processing was deemed to be necessary.

A tougher stance, instead, is adopted by the Italian Data Protection Authority in cases of processing aimed at marketing purposes, as in this decision, for example. (I note, however, that the code of conduct applying to data processing for the purposes of commercial information that will enter into force on October 1, 2016, blessed by the Italian Data Protection Authority, continues to allow the dispatching of commercial communications to individuals whose personal data is included in public listings, even without the data subject’s express consent).

Balancing rights and interests is inherent to law and justice. It remains to be seen, considering the obvious (and absolutely reasonable) limitations to which the right to privacy is subject, if it will continue to make sense to frame it as “fundamental” right.

Art. 29 Working Party on EU-US Privacy Shield: Trust Not Yet Restored For Transatlantic Data Flows

Only few months after the 2015 Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) landmark decision that put an end to the Safe Harbour system, the EU Commission proudly announced a new framework agreement with the US authorities, allegedly providing strong safeguards, sufficient to “enable Europe and America to restore trust in transatlantic data flows” (Commissioner Věra Jourová).

According to the Commission’s press release, the Privacy Shield’s guarantees include:

  • strong obligations on companies and robust enforcement;
  • clear safeguards and transparency obligations on US government access;
  • a redress possibility through an independent Ombudsperson mechanism;
  • effective protection of EU citizens’ rights through various measures (a specific timeline for resolving complaints , a free of charge alternative dispute resolution solution, as well as the possibility for EU citizens to lodge complaints with their national Data Protection Authorities, who will work with the Federal Trade Commission to solve them).

Nevertheless, the newly issued opinion of the Art. 29 Working Party (“WP29”) already raised strong criticism against the Privacy Shield, tempering the Commission’s enthusiasm. Although WP29 did not abstain from underlining the improvements the Privacy Shield offers in comparison to the invalidated Safe Harbour decision, its concerns seem to eclipse those positive features, leading to the overall negative assessment of the new framework. Moreover, the impression is that the Privacy Shield led to more uncertainty, leaving everyone frustrated, with the exception of those authorities that negotiated it.

But what are, then, according to WP29, the improvements offered by the Privacy Shield? On the other hand, what major concerns does it raise? Finally, does it provide for adequate answers to post-Safe Harbour issues?

Firstly, it must be recognized, as WP29 certainly does, that the Privacy Shield represents a large step forward from Safe Harbour in terms of data protection. And, one could argue, it couldn’t be otherwise, since the Safe Harbour decision dates back sixteen years ago, before Facebook, the social network, big data era and the emergence of encryption vs. surveillance-like debates.

However, WP29 welcomes the additional recourses made available to individuals to exercise their rights, together with the extensive attention dedicated to data accessed for purposes of national security and law enforcement. Increased transparency measures are also appreciated by WP29: both those offered by the US administration on the legislation applicable to intelligence data collection and those provided through the introduction of two Privacy Shield Lists on the US Department of Commerce website (one containing the records of those organizations adhering to the Privacy Shield and one containing the records of those that have adhered in the past, but no longer do so).

Unfortunately, it seems that, these (few), general, positive notes are by far neutralized by the much more incisive negative remarks made by the WP29. WP29 points out the inadequate safeguards set forth to protect some key data protection principles under European law: the data retention principle is not expressly mentioned by Privacy Shield instruments (nor it can be clearly construed from their current wording) and onward transfers of EU personal data to third Countries are insufficiently framed. Despite the EU Commission’s enthusiastic press releases, WP29 underlines how, from the documents signed  by US authorities, it cannot be fully excluded that US administrations will continue the collection of massive and indiscriminate data. And one cannot abstain from noting how crucial the latter aspect is, being one of the main reasons that led the CJEU to invalidate the Safe Harbour decision. Moreover , WP29, while recognizing the effort to create additional oversight mechanisms, considers those efforts not satisfactory: the new redress mechanisms, in practice, may prove to be too complex and difficult to use and, more specifically, the capability of the Ombudsperson mechanism to be truly independent from US governmental authorities is strongly questioned. The lack of clarity of the new framework is also stigmatized by the WP29 by calling for a glossary of terms to be included in the negotiated instruments, in order to ensure that the key data protection notions of the Privacy Shield will be defined and applied in a consistent way. Lastly, the WP29 points out, rightly, how the newly issued Privacy Shield documents already appear out-of-date, considering the approval and forthcoming enter into force of the EU data protection reform, which will bring important improvements on the level of data protection offered to individuals, not at all reflected in the Privacy Shield.

The adequacy of the Privacy Shield to address the issues raised after the CJEU decision invalidating Safe Harbour is hence, at least, arguable. The significant uncertainty created after the fall of Safe Harbour is not only far from being clarified but, possibly, worsened. The major concerns raised by the CJEU have not been adequately tackled, especially if one considers the absence of clear-cut undertakings of the US authorities on mass surveillance programs by security intelligence agencies. Regulatory costs on companies and governmental agencies will not therefore be balanced by stability, certainty and higher levels of fundamental rights protection, leaving everyone dissatisfied.

So, what’s next for Privacy Shield? Another advisory decision is awaited from Article 31 Committee after the second half of May. Then, different options are available but, basically, the implementation of Privacy Shield could take place with or without addressing WP29’s most important concerns. In any case, legal challenges before the CJEU, as well as claims brought to national data protection authorities, will always be open and much likely to happen, given the overall uncertainty characterizing transatlantic data flows: trust is, indeed, very far from being restored.

The Safe Harbor Decision (And What Is Wrong With It)

As most people and businesses on either side of the Atlantic are now aware, on October 6, 2015 the European Court of Justice invalidated the Commission’s Safe Harbor decision and made the transfer of personal data to the United States slightly more difficult for businesses.

The Court decision is based on two fundamental findings: first, the Commission’s Safe Harbor decision did not find – as it was required to do according to the Court – that the United States ensures a level of protection of fundamental rights essentially equivalent to that guaranteed within the European Union. Second, and equally important, the Court held that the Commission had no authority to restrict the powers of national data protection authorities to examine complaints of their citizens and assess whether the transfer of data to the United States affords an adequate level of protection.

Until the recent Court decision, the Safe Harbor program has provided a framework for the transfer of personal data from the European Union to the United States. Safe Harbor, however, is neither the only way to transfer personal data to the United States, nor the most commonly used. United States undertakings have consistently used – and will be able to continue to use even after the Court’s decision – model clauses and binding corporate rules.

As European and US undertakings have a wide variety of tools available to transfer data to the United States, the most troubling finding of the Court’s decision is not the invalidation of the Safe Harbor per se, but rather the recognition of much broader powers to member states’ data protection authorities. While the Safe Harbor scheme provided a single and simplified framework that was easily understood by United States’ businesses, the new decision leaves uncertainty as to the approach that each member state’s data protection authorities will take in connection with the export of their citizens’ data. As a consequence, in spite of the current efforts by European authorities to adopt a single data protection regulation ensuring a more uniform legislation throughout the continent, the Court decision is likely to lead – for at least some time – to a more fragmented and less clear legal framework among different member states.

Last, but not least, it is worth noting that one of the main reasons that led the Court to invalidate the Safe Harbor Commission’s decision has been the discovery of mass surveillance programs by US national security intelligence agencies and their rights to access personal data of European citizens. The concern of the European Court of Justice is well grounded and all of us, as individuals, are likely to share that same concern. However, why is the Court not equally worried about the surveillance programs and data retention policies adopted by several member states over the last few years?

Many have pointed out (see for instance here and here) that the Court decision is the result of different sensitivities between US and European people when it comes to the protection of their privacy, being the Europeans more keen to consider the protection of their personal data as a fundamental human right (or, rather, very keen on teaching data protection lessons to the United States). However, the failure of the European Court of Justice to acknowledge that such fundamental right is as much at risk within the borders of Europe as it is outside leaves us wondering whether the Court is really protecting the substance of our privacy as European citizens.