Following the positions expressed by the Austrian, German and French Supervisory Authorities (see our previous Alert), the Italian Supervisory Authority (Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali, Garante-) published on 9 June 2022 a specific measure, according to which website analytics solutions used to measure online audience (Analytics Service Solutions) infringe on the EU General Data Protection Regulation no. 2016/679 (GDPR) when such use implies a transfer of personal data to a third country without an adequate level of personal data protection, such as the United States. Generally speaking, the Garante, aligned its position on the matter with its counterparts.

In the case at hand, following an investigation initiated in August 2020, based on a data subject complaint, the Garante admonished (without issuing a fine) an online newspaper (the “Company“) for transferring, through an Analytics Service Solution the personal data of users to the U.S. without adopting the necessary safeguards. In particular, the Garante pointed out that the Company had no autonomy in making choices regarding data transfers to third countries, and “no possibility to verify the implementation at technical level” of any additional measures the Analytics Service Solution would dictate.

In particular, the Garante took position on a controversial topic relating to the characterization of an internet protocol (IP) address: according to the Garante the IP address should be deemed a personal data in as much as it allows the identification of an electronic communication terminal and, therefore, indirectly, the identification of a user behind that terminal. The above occurs, for instance, when users access a website while at the same time being logged to the Analytics Service Solutions’ own service (such as webmail), since the data transmitted by the website’s cookies may be reconciled with such service and account.

Furthermore, Garante disregarded the use of an “IP anonymization” functionality selected by the Company, considering that it, would not be sufficient to prevent the identification of the user and, therefore, the transfers of actual personal data. According to the Garante, the partial IP address truncation was deemed to be mere pseudonymization, unable to prevent further re-identification of the user, when using the Analytics Service Solution’s services.

In light of the above, the Garante reiterated the principle already established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU): under GDPR’s accountability framework, EU-based data exporters are required to assess  whether the data importer’s applicable regulatory framework or best practices affect the effectiveness of the standard contractual clauses safeguards. In particular, the exporter must verify whether the public authorities in the third country have access to the exported personal data through the exporter itself. Generally speaking, data exporters subject to GDPR must ensure, on a case by case assessment, that the safeguards set out under Article 46 GDPR et seq. are effective. Therefore, in the event that it is not possible to ensure compliance with GDPR safeguards, additional measures must be implemented to ensure a level of personal data protection that complies with the GDPR. In addition, the Garante pointed out that, in the case at hand, the encryption key remained in the Analytics Service Solution provider and, reiterating what the European Data Protection Board had already stated in its Recommendation 1/2020, such loss of control over the encryption key prevented any organization or technical measures from being considered adequate.

As a result of all the investigations conducted, deeming that the Company’s breach fell within the scope of Article 83 GDPR, par 2 (“minor violation“), the Garante ordered to the Company to comply with Chapter V GDPR within 90 days and failing this, to prohibit any international data flow to the Analytics Service Solution .

In addition to the above, Mr. Guido Scorza, one of the Garante’s members, highlighted in a press release that this matter affected each and all website operators in Italy, which that now all have a 90-days deadline to comply with the issued measure.

WHAT’S NEXT?

All Italy website stakeholders must now review their Analytics Service Solutions and whether they would fall within the scope of the Garante’s requirements.

  • Where such international data transfers would effectively occur, the stakeholder should assess the best way forward. If their Analytics Service Solution does not offer the sufficient safeguards, and following the similar recent decision by the French Supervisory Authority, the Italian stakeholders may notably consider the implementation of IT solutions such as encryption and proxy servers.

K&L Gates Global Data Protection team (including in each of our European offices) remains available to assist you in achieving the compliance of your data transfers at global level.

First Publication: K&L Gates Hub in collaboration with Eleonora Curreri

The UK Government has finally published its highly anticipated Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (the Bill), marking the first significant post-Brexit change to the UK’s data protection regime. Following Brexit, the UK continued following the EU General Data Protection Regulation, incorporated into UK law as the UK GDPR, and the UK implementation of the EU ePrivacy Directive, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), also remained in force.

The Bill is only at the start of the legislative process, and it remains to be seen how it will develop if it is amended during its passage through Parliament, but early indications are that it represents more of an evolution than a revolution in the UK regime. That will come as a relief to businesses that transfer personal data from the EU to the UK, because it reduces the risk that the EU might rescind the UK’s adequacy status.

For a start, the Bill actually preserves the UK GDPR, its enabling legislation the Data Protection Act 2018, and the PECR, because it is drafted as an amending act rather than a completely new legislative instrument. This does not contribute to user-friendliness, as interpreting UK data protection requirements will require a great deal of cross-referencing across texts.

The more eye-catching proposed changes in the Bill include:

  • The inclusion of a list of “legitimate interests” that will automatically qualify as being covered by the lawful basis in UK GDPR Article 6(e).
  • Some limitations on data subject access requests, such as the possibility of refusing “vexatious or excessive” requests.
  • More exemptions from the requirement to obtain consent to cookies.
  • Much higher fees for breach of PECR.

The Bill will now progress through various Parliamentary stages over the coming months in order to become law.

First Publication: K&L Gates Cyber Law Watch in collaboration with Noirin McFadden & Keisha Phippen

Following the 2020 Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) ruling invalidating the Privacy Shield (see our alert here), personal data transfers from the European Union to the United States required EU companies to implement additional safeguard mechanisms, as the CJEU considered that U.S. legislation did not provide sufficient guarantees against the risk of access by public authorities (including intelligence services) to the imported data.

(more…)

Transfer from the UK

On 21 March 2022, the United Kingdom finalized the adoption of its own version of the European Union’s (EU) Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC), a contractual mechanism aiming at securing personal data protected under a data protection framework to third countries not deemed to offer an “adequate” level of data protection.

On 16 July 2020, while the United Kingdom was still an EU Member State, the European Court of Justice (CJEU), through its Schrems II decision, added new requirements to the SCC (see our Alert here), relating to safeguards against access to personal data protected under EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by intelligence agencies. As a consequence, the European Union adopted new versions of the SCC in June 2021 (see our Alert here), but the United Kingdom having finalized Brexit in the meantime, did not adopt the new SCCs, instead operating the previous versions of the SCC, and an updated document for transfers initiated under the UK GDPR was needed.

The UK’s draft International Data Transfer Agreement (IDTA) and Addendum  were laid before Parliament on 22 February 2022 and finally adopted on 21 March 2022 without changes. The IDTA is an equivalent contract to the SCC, but uses a tabular approach in place of the modules used by the SCC. The alternative instrument that was introduced, the Addendum, provides UK data exporters with a semi-seamless mechanism where they can leverage their existing SCC for transfers initiated under the EU GDPR. The Addendum consists of a form effectively selecting the relevant options of the SCC and amending EU terminology and legal references to UK-specific ones. It is likely to be more widely used than the IDTA, particularly as data exporters with operations in both the UK and the EU will look to reduce the number of contracts they need to enter into. Overall, the IDTA and the Addendum represent a narrowing in the divergence that had appeared recently in the differing safeguards required by the UK and the EU for data exporters engaged in personal data transfers from their respective jurisdictions.

As a reminder:

  • Transfers between the EU and the UK do not need any specific measures as per the adequacy decision currently in place (see our Alert here)
  • all data transfer agreements under the EU GDPR based on the previous versions of the SCC will need to be migrated to the new SCC on or before 27 December 2022; and
  • all data transfer agreements under the UK GDPR executed on or before 21 September 2022 on the basis of any Transitional Standard Clauses (based on the previous versions of the SCC) will need to be migrated to an IDTA or Addendum on or before 21 March 2024.

Transfer from the EU to the US: En Route for Schrems III?

On 25 March 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and United States President Joe Biden announced  an “agreement in principle” on a new EU-US data sharing system, expected to replace the Privacy Shield framework invalidated under the CJEU’s Schrems II decision in 2020 (see our Alert here).

As no draft of that “agreement” has been circulated, the existing grievances against U.S. intelligence agencies’ access to personal data protected under GDPR remain and concerns relating to ‘effective legal remedies’ available to individuals protected under GDPR (Data Subjects) will need to be addressed. Data activist Maximilian Schrems and his organization, noyb, already announced that they would closely monitor the development of this new framework and challenge any decision which would not abide by the CJEU’s 2020 Schrems II decision.

While such a political statement is encouraging for the future of international data transfers, this announcement should not be construed as relieving companies subject to GDPR’s territorial scope (see our Alert here) from implementing adequate data transfer mechanisms until more concrete elements are adopted.

Such transfer mechanisms notably include:

  • A transfer impact assessment (TIA), analyzing the regulatory framework applicable to the destination country and any supplemental technical and organizational measures to be implemented to safeguard the transferred personal data from undue access;
  • Implementation of a transfer mechanism, such as the SCC (see above) or adhesion to Binding Corporate Rules, or to a Code of Conduct (see our Alert here).

K&L Gates’ global data protection team (including in each of our European offices) remains available to assist you in achieving the compliance of your data transfers at a global level.

First publication: K&L Gates Hub in collaboration with Noirin McFadden, Thomas Nietsch and Keisha Phippen

European regulators unofficially announced the major theme of this new year, through the release of several decisions pertaining to cookies and other tracking technologies in the first 10 days of 2022.

As the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is approaching the fourth anniversary of its entry into force, the ePrivacy Regulation—a companion piece to address online communication and that was supposed to be adopted at the same time—remains in the limbo of the European legislative process.

In the meantime, the effects of the Schrems II decision of 16 July 2020 (see our alert here), which canceled the Privacy Shield and placed stricter requirements on the use of standard contractual clauses, continues to ripple through data protection compliance efforts of companies worldwide.

(more…)

BACKGROUND

On 30 March 2021, the European Commission, in a joint statement with the Personal Information Protection Commission, the data protection authority of the Republic of Korea (Korea), declared that Korea ensured a level of protection for personal data that is similar to the level provided in the European Union (the EU) and, as such, is a jurisdiction deemed “adequate.” Further to this joint declaration, the European Commission completed its internal procedures and formally adopted the substance of this joint statement in a draft adequacy decision published on 14 June 2021. Once finalized, businesses will be allowed to transfer personal data freely from the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) to Korea without being required to provide further safeguards as required for “third country transfers” under the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR). Once so adopted, the adequacy decision would cover transfers of personal data to commercial operators located in Korea, as well as Korean public authorities. However, the transfer of personal credit information that is subject to jurisdiction of Korea’s Financial Services Commission will be excluded from the coverage of the adequacy decision.  

The adequacy decision only relates to the transfer of personal data from the EU/EEA to a recipient in Korea, but it does not cover the general applicability of GDPR. In this context, any company (even outside the EU/EEA) that directly collects personal data from EU residents in connection with offering goods or services or monitoring of behavior of EU residents will still need to comply with the obligations set out in the GDPR for its collection of personal data. Also, significantly, the adequacy decision only covers data flow in one direction, from the EU to Korea, but not in the opposite direction, i.e., from Korea to the EEA. As noted below, barring any further statutory amendments, Korean privacy laws still require data handlers to obtain the consent of data subjects (as opposed to an opt-out) prior to transferring their personal data outside of Korea.

The conclusion of adequacy talks between Korea and the European Commission is a major step in their ongoing four-year dialogue regarding mutual recognition of personal data protection regimes. Korea has been preparing for this adequacy decision since 2015, when the Korean government established a joint public-private sector task force, which was charged with conducting data regulation-related feasibility studies, self-assessments, and comparative analyses in preparation for the first round of adequacy negotiations with the EU in 2017. After two extensive rounds of adequacy negotiations between the representatives of the European Commission and Korea ended without an adequacy finding, Korea decided to make significant amendments to its data protection laws. Such amendments were enacted by the National Assembly, Korea’s national legislature, in January 2020 and became effective in August 2020, thus paving the way for the March 2021 joint statement.

(more…)

Depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, it will have taken the European Commission either three years and two weeks (since the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or eleven months (since the Schrems II decision — see our Alert here) to publish its finalized revision of the most flexible tool to allow for the transfer of personal data to partners located in countries not otherwise providing an adequate level of data protection (Adequate Countries): the Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs).

While Schrems II made headlines with its cancellation of the Privacy Shield framework, this mechanism only affected 5,000 companies in the United States. SCCs, on the other hand, remain the most widely used instrument to ensure an end-to-end sufficient level protection of personal data covered by European data protection. With their original version dating back 2001, an update was severely needed to align them with GDPR’s extensive reach and requirements.

IN A NUTSHELL:

  • The new SCCs were published on 4 June 2021:
    • Starting on 27 June 2021, companies will need to transition to the new SCCs;
    • On 27 December 2022, companies must have finalized their transition to the new SCCs.
  • Affected companies include:
    • EU-based entities sharing data with partners and providers located in countries deemed not to offer an adequate level of protection;
    • Non EU-based entities otherwise subject to GDPR’s extensive territorial reach (see our Alert here) sharing data with partners and providers located in countries deemed not to offer an adequate level of protection; and
    • Non-EU based entities receiving or processing personal data from or on behalf of EU-based partners or non-EU partners otherwise subject to GDPR.
  • Key new elements include:
    • Data exporting entities will need to assess the importing countries’ regulatory framework;
    • Where such framework cannot safeguard the transferred data subject to GDPR, additional measures must be implemented contractually, organizationally and/or technically;
    • Each and every step of the assessment, and the relevancy of the remediation measures, must be thoroughly documented; and
    • In the case of a controller/processor/sub-processor relationship, the new SCCs consolidate the requirements into a single agreement addressing the data processing requirements under Article 28 GDPR and the data transfer agreement.
  • While the new SCCs provide for a general framework, many issues are left to:
(more…)

Since the Schrems II decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) last year (see our alert here), companies in the European Union found themselves between a rock and a hard place, as many still rely on U.S.-based online service providers in one capacity or another, and the CJEU, in addition to totally invalidating the Privacy Shield framework, mandated additional requirements over the Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs), the most widely used lawful transfer mechanisms.

Following this CJEU decision, the Bavarian Data Protection Authority (Bayerisches Landesamt für Datenschutzaufsicht) has now effectively barred a European online magazine from using the popular U.S.-based newsletter delivery service, Mailchimp.

Companies using Mailchimp to route their newsletters must generally transfer personal data (e.g., the recipients’ email addresses) to Mailchimp’s servers in the United States. Previously certified under the late EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, Mailchimp had to pivot to offer its European customers an alternative transfer mechanism, i.e. the SCCs. While their general validity was left untouched by the Schrems II decision, the CJEU argued that it may be required for companies relying on the SCCs to assess whether additional safeguards should be implemented on top of the SCCs in order to effectively protect personal data.

As expressly mentioned in the Schrems II decision, transfers to cloud service providers in the United States would require such additional safeguards, due to the broad investigative powers of U.S. authorities, e.g., under Section 702 (50 U.S.C. § 1881a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Cloud Services Act).

Until now, it had seemed that the EU supervisory authorities had granted companies an unofficial grace period to adjust to the amended legal situation, especially as new templates for SCCs taking into consideration the Schrems II decision are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

The action of the Bavarian Data Protection Authority shows that this restraint might have come to an end. In a recent press release concerning this investigation, the authority commented that the case was exemplary for their enforcement of the requirements of the Schrems II decision, which had already been taken up with a high degree of intensity even without publicly perceived investigations or sanctions. 

The Bavarian Data Protection Authority based its action expressly on the fact that the European company has not assessed whether additional safeguards for transferring personal data to Mailchimp were required, in particular as Mailchimp may be subject to the Cloud Services Act. While no fine was imposed in this case and the Bavarian Data Protection Authority did not issue a formal decision, the authority still informed the company that their use of Mailchimp was (in their view) not in line with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements. The company also promised to cease using Mailchimp in the future.

However, it should be noted that the official reason for not imposing a fine was on the one hand, the low sensitivity of the data transferred (email addresses only) and, on the other hand, the limited scope of the transmission (only two newsletters were sent). The details of the case being leaked and officially commented on by the supervisory authority could be considered as a warning to other EU companies transferring data to U.S. cloud service providers, which should probably expect less leniency from the supervisory authorities from now on. 

The current case was rather clear, as the European company in question has apparently taken no steps at all to establish and document whether additional safeguards were required and were already (because of this omission) in breach of their statutory obligations under GDPR. Future cases will probably not be as easy to decide, in particular when an EU company has documented a respective assessment or even implemented additional safeguards, and supervisory authorities and ultimately courts will have to assess what is really required to ensure adequate security of personal data in countries outside the European Union. 

Following the decision of the Bavarian Data Protection Authority, EU companies using U.S. online service providers, especially cloud services, are therefore encouraged to check the basis of their data transfers to the United States and, if necessary, adapt them to the new legal situation in order to avoid facing potentially high fines. 

K&L Gates’ global data protection team (including in each of our European offices) remains available to assist you in achieving the compliance of your data transfers at global levels.

First Publication: K&L Gates with Thomas Nietsch & Martin Fokken

When the General Data Protection Regulation1)Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the Protection of Natural Persons with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data, … Continue reading came into force throughout the European Union nearly three years ago, one of its most eye-catching features was its extraterritorial jurisdiction provisions. These extend the reach of the GDPR to businesses located outside the European Union who offer goods or services to EU residents or who monitor the behavior of EU residents2)Art. 3(2)(a) and (b) GDPR..

Under the threat of becoming liable for a breach of the GDPR and potential fines of up to €20m or four percent of global turnover (whichever the higher), many businesses based in the United States and other locations outside the European Union have simply taken a stance of refusing to deal with EU residents, including taking measures such as geo-blocking websites to EU-based visitors. Other businesses, in the United States and elsewhere, have found themselves contemplating whether they might be subject to the GDPR and how to react merely because they have made a new EU-based business connection, acquired the contact details of a potential customer in the European Union, or even become aware that an employee at a customer organization had moved to the European Union.

A court in the United Kingdom has now considered the limits of extraterritorial jurisdiction of the GDPR, which may provide some reassurance to overseas businesses that limited contact with EU residents via a website may not necessarily lead to them being subject to the GDPR.

(more…)

As of 1 January 2021, the Brexit transition period (Transition Period) ended, and the United Kingdom (UK) officially finalized its exit from the European Union (EU) and the 11th-hour commercial agreement (Agreement) should allow for a smoother transition on the data protection front as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stops being directly applicable to the UK. It also provided the UK with a six-month grace period to hope for an adequacy decision that would allow for the free transfer of personal data from the EU to the UK.

As the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) amended on 13 January 2021 its Brexit communications² further to the Agreement (Communications), it only addresses:

  • The issue of data transfers from the EU to the UK;
  • The end of the One-Stop-Shop (OSS) mechanism for the UK; and
  • The need for UK entities that would be subject to GDPR to appoint a representative further to Art. 27 GDPR.

However, aside from enacting the end of the OSS and commenting that “the EDPB has been liaising with the ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s Supervisory Authority] over the past months in order to enable a smooth shift to this new situation by ensuring that the EEA authorities follow a shared and efficient approach in handling the existing complaints and cross-border cases involving the ICO, whilst minimizing delays and possible inconveniences to affected complainants[,]” the EDPB did not comment on how such collaboration will effectively play out for companies whose lead Supervisory Authority was the ICO.

Read the full article on Radar First blog.