Amid the constitutional and political uncertainties surrounding the Brexit process, the UK Government has provided welcome assurance on the data protection front. Guidance issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) confirms how UK data protection law will work in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Whilst the Government still regards a No Deal Brexit as “unlikely”, given the extremely severe implications of that scenario for transfers of personal data into and out of the UK, the DCMS confirmation is hugely helpful in terms of the preparations needed for that eventuality.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (‘DDCMS’) has today released guidance on “Data protection if there’s no Brexit deal”, which is part of its preparations for if there is a “no deal” scenario when the Article 50 negotiating period comes to an end on 29 March 2019. The UK will become a “third country” on its exit from the European Union, which means that unhindered cross-border transfers of data will no longer automatically be able to take place between the UK and the EU. The guidance confirms that, given the “unprecedented alignment” between the UK and EU data protection regimes, the UK would continue to allow transfers of data from the UK to the EU at the point of exit. However, the Commission has made it clear that they would not make a decision on adequacy until the UK is a third country (that is, after 29 March 2018), and its procedure for reaching a decision typically lasts several months.
To date, the main legacy of the Brexit referendum of 2016 appears to be a country split in half: some badly wish the UK would continue to be a member of the EU and some are equally keen on making a move. Yet, there seems to be at least one thing on which Remainers and Leavers will agree: nobody knows exactly what is going to happen. The same is true of the effect of Brexit on UK data protection. However, as Brexit day approaches, it is becoming imperative for those with responsibility for data protection compliance to make some crucial strategic decisions. To help with that process, here are some pointers about what we know and what we don’t know.
Hot on the heels of the European Commission’s official review of the functioning of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, the Article 29 Working Party of EU data protection regulators has issued its own report on the matter. The summary of findings by the Working Party, which draws from both written submissions and oral contributions, begins by commending U.S. authorities for their efforts in establishing a procedural framework to support the operation of Privacy Shield but quickly shifts to the Working Party’s concerns. Should the concerns not be addressed by the time of the second joint review, the Working Party notes that its members will “take appropriate action,” including bringing a Privacy Shield adequacy decision to national courts for reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling.
Part 9 of Future-Proofing Privacy: Future-Proofing Privacy: International Data Transfers 2.0. The Data Protection Directive and the Regulation both impose restrictions on the transfer of personal data by EU based businesses (whether those businesses are data controllers or data processors) to destinations outside the EEA. These restrictions, however, have not been uniformly implemented by EU Member States. In some Member States additional requirements apply, such as prior notification to or approval by the local DPA, particularly where companies wish to rely on EU Model Clauses or BCRs. This approach is essentially set to continue
with some variations.