On Monday 20 January, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, jointly with the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, presented a paper outlining topics for review of the PDPO to the members of the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs. The CMAB and the PCPD are expected to take panel members’ feedback on the PDPO Review Paper and undertake further in-depth study of the issues with a view to making specific proposals for legislative reform in due course.
As with anything Brexit-related, the UK government is facing a dilemma in relation to data protection law. Shall we follow the direction of travel of the past 25 years and opt for the continuity and certainty provided by the GDPR or shall we use the departure from the EU to make radical changes to the regulation of data uses and privacy? On the one hand, it would be reassuring to know that despite Brexit’s uncertainties, the current framework is here to stay and it will develop in a familiar way. On the other hand, it must be tempting to use this opportunity to completely re-think what is in the best national interest. For an area of law and policy that is so closely related to technological development and prosperity, it would be foolish not to consider whether a different formulation would lead to better outcomes. A dilemma indeed.
On January 15, the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) Advocate General (AG) Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona delivered his Opinion on four references for preliminary rulings on the topic of retention of and access to communications data. Of the four references, two originated from France, one from Belgium, and one from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in the United Kingdom. The latter arose from a challenge by Privacy International to the UK Security and Intelligence Agencies’ (SIAs) powers under the Telecommunications Act 2014 and the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.
The French Data Protection Authority published new Guidelines on December 10, 2019 applicable to whistleblowing schemes, following a public consultation process. The Guidelines replace the former Single Authorization AU-004, which has not applied since arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation. The CNIL has also published a useful Frequently Asked Questions webpage regarding the Guidelines. The CNIL’s new Guidelines import certain aspects of its former position on whistleblowing schemes.
Does the GDPR really apply to my company? From a data protection standpoint, this is the first thing that comes to mind within non-EU companies. In many cases, the GDPR seems like an issue of the Old Continent, so it does not affect non-EU companies. In others, companies apply the GDPR to all their processing activities just to avoid the possibility of being addressed by EU authorities. Neither decision is per se correct.
Update: On 3 December 2019 the law imposing multi-million Ruble fines for infringing Russian data localization and information security laws has come into force. Since the law has already come into force, new fines may be imposed on companies based on results of Roskomnadzor’s inspections in 2020. Roskomnadzor has already identified the entities it plans to inspect in 2020 but may initiate unplanned inspections as well based, for example, on data subject complaints or its online monitoring of company activity.
Hogan Lovells has published a study evaluating the ongoing legislative proposal for a new ePrivacy Regulation, a law aimed at updating the current ePrivacy framework in the EU.
After nearly three years of debates and negotiations, the European Union is nowhere near agreeing a position on how to achieve the right balance between the need for technological innovation, public security and the protection of privacy in the context of the digital economy.
Two years on since the first draft, the final act of the legislative passage saga of the long-awaited People’s Republic of China Encryption Law ended with its passage on 26 October 2019. It will take effect on 1 January 2020. The final text of the Encryption Law clearly represents a step in the right direction in terms of putting in place a comprehensive law in the encryption field, a sensitive and highly regulated area which China closely associates with state secrecy, and which historically has caused foreign investors great confusion with its strange mix of legislation that said one thing and policies that said another.
On October 17, the Spanish data protection authority published the Guide to Privacy by Design. While Privacy by Design first became a legal requirement in the EU with implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, it is a well-known concept among privacy professionals that dates back to the 1990s. PbD should be construed as “the need to consider privacy and the principles of data protection from the inception of any type of processing.” It is a concept focused on risk management and accountability that aims to incorporate privacy protections throughout the life cycle of systems, services, products, and processes. It involves the application of measures for privacy protection among all business processes and practices associated to personal data.
Following the joint press statement from Commissioner Věra Jourová and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross of 13 September, on 23 October 2019 the European Commission published its report on the third annual review of the functioning of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. In a nutshell, the report of the third review found that the U.S. continues to provide an adequate level of protection for personal data transferred under the Privacy Shield from the EU to participating companies in the U.S.
Anonymisation has always been (and still is) a real challenge for those carrying out clinical research. To shed some light on this matter, the Medical Research Council – which is part of UK Research and Innovation – has recently published guidance on Identifiability, anonymisation and pseudonymisation. Although the guidance itself states that it has been developed with the participation of the Information Commissioner’s Office, it is not ICO-approved and so institutes and organisations should be cautious when relying on the criteria set out in the guidance.
On 1 October 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union handed down a crucial decision impacting the way that consent is obtained on the internet. The judgment relates to Case C-673/17. In the Planet49 case, the German Federal Court referred a number of questions to the CJEU regarding the validity of consent to cookies placed by a website operating an online lottery.
On 9 July 2019 the UK data protection authority updated its Data Sharing Code of Practice (first published in 2011). On the same day, the ICO also announced its intention to fine Marriott International just over £99m for infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation, highlighting the importance of due diligence in the context of data sharing.
On 19 July the French Data Protection Authority published new guidelines on cookies and trackers. These replace the existing Recommendation No. 2013-378 of 5 December 2013, are intended to be in line with relevant GDPR provisions and have been produced in anticipation of the future ePrivacy Regulation. The guidelines will be supplemented, at a later stage, with sectoral recommendations setting out practical methods for obtaining consent. These sectoral recommendations will be included in a final version of the guidelines on cookies and trackers open for public consultation, which will then be subject to final adoption by the CNIL (expected early 2020).
In the wake of a recent announcement by a major Dutch bank that it would start providing its customers with personalized advertisements based on their spending patterns, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) has sent a letter to all Dutch banks urging them to thoroughly review their direct marketing practices. The DPA specifically asked any bank contemplating the use of transaction data for direct marketing to reconsider. In its analysis, the DPA may have introduced a very onerous obligation to re-collect personal data for every single use.
As companies continue to grapple with interpreting how the GDPR’s principles apply to their own businesses, in particular contexts, there is a growing need for data protection regulators to provide clarity on the practical application of the regulation. In the UK, the Information Commissioner has recently taken steps to address these concerns through the announcement of a ‘Regulatory Sandbox’.
On 8 July 2019, the UK data protection authority issued a notice of its intention to fine British Airways GBP 183.39 million (approx. USD 229.46 million) for infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation. The proposed fine relates to a data breach in which personal data of approximately 500,000 customers were compromised.
The French Data Protection Authority has made targeted online advertising a priority topic in its 2019-2020 agenda and has changed its position on cookie consent. Although the ePrivacy Regulation is still being debated by EU legislators and is far from being finalised, the CNIL has withdrawn its 2013 cookie recommendation and announced that it will publish new guidelines (announcements are available in English on the CNIL’s website here and here). These explicitly rule out the use of implied or “soft” consent to place cookies on users’ devices.
On June 13, 2019, a new draft bill imposing multi-million ruble fines for infringing Russian data localization and information security laws—multiplying the maximum penalty under current law by a magnitude of 240—was submitted to the State Duma (the lower chamber of Russian Parliament). This would supplement existing fines, which we reported were previously increased in 2017.
On 6 June, 2019, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data issued an enforcement notice against Cathay Pacific Airways (and its affiliate Hong Kong Dragon Airlines) (together, “Cathay Pacific”) in respect of a data breach concerning unauthorized access to the personal data of some 9.4 million Cathay Pacific customers.