On 10 July 2023, the European Commission adopted its long-awaited adequacy decision for the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework (the DPF). With immediate effect, the adequacy decision provides a new lawful basis for transfers from the EU to the U.S. This means that companies that participate in the DPF are able to transfer data from the EU to the U.S. without relying on another data transfer mechanism, such as Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or binding corporate rules (BCRs).
Background to the Adequacy Decision
Pursuant to Article 45(3) of the GDPR, the European Commission has the power, by means of an adequacy decision, to decide that a non-EU country has sufficient standards of data protection to be treated as equivalent to those afforded in the EU.
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Yesterday, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) issued Meta Platforms Ireland Limited with a EUR 1.2 billion (approximately 1.3 billion U.S. dollar) fine for breaches of the GDPR with respect to EU-U.S. personal data transfers associated with its Facebook service. Meta Ireland has also been ordered to suspend all Facebook-related personal data transfers from the EU to the U.S., and to bring the processing of any previously transferred data into compliance.
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On 29 March 2023, the UK Government published its latest proposals on regulating Artificial Intelligence (“AI”). The White Paper follows on from an initial policy paper published in July 2022 (the “2022 Policy Paper”), which we discussed in detail in our previous blog post. The proposals set out in the White Paper have been informed by the feedback received as part of the UK Government’s consultation on the 2022 Policy Paper.
A central theme is that the regulatory framework in the UK must not stifle innovation, but rather harness AI’s ability to drive growth and prosperity, and increase public trust in its use and application.
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The UK government recently introduced a new Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill (the “New Bill”). The reforms are intended to update and simplify the UK’s data protection framework and reduce burdens on organisations, while maintaining high data protection standards.
The New Bill replaces the original Data Protection and Digital Information Bill introduced in July 2022 (the “Previous Bill”), which we discussed in detail in our previous blog post. Much of the original drafting remains the same in the New Bill. However, there are some key changes to the proposals, outlined below.
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In a recent judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) has confirmed that Data Protection Officers (DPOs) can maintain other tasks and duties within their role, provided they do not result in a conflict of interest. The CJEU also held that the GDPR allows for EU member states to legislate to give greater protection to DPOs against dismissal than those set out in the GDPR.
Background to Ruling
In October 2020, the Federal Labour Court of Germany, Bundesarbeitsgericht, requested a preliminary ruling from the CJEU relating to proceedings between X-FAB Dresden GmbH & Co. KG (X-FAB) and its former DPO (“FC”) to clarify under what circumstances an organisation may be allowed to lawfully dismiss its appointed DPO. FC had been DPO for X-FAB and several related companies within its group and had held the role of chair of the works council and vice-chair of the central works council for a few group companies, alongside the DPO position for those companies. FC had been dismissed by X-FAB in December 2017 at the request of the state officer for data protection and freedom of information of Thüringen, Germany. Subsequently, on the coming into force of the GDPR in May 2018, X-FAB had repeated this dismissal as a precautionary measure. FC sought a declaration by the German courts that he retain the DPO position. X-Fab argued FC’s dismissal was justified, stating “a risk of a conflict of interests” in performing both functions, i.e., as both DPO and chair/vice-chair of the works council, on the grounds of incompatibility between the roles. The courts at both first instance and appeal upheld FC’s claim.
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Meta Ireland (Meta) has recently been issued with two fines by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) for breaches of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) relating to advertisements run on its Facebook and Instagram services. The decisions highlight some fundamental issues for all data controllers in respect of identifying the appropriate legal basis for their data processing operations and the need to be transparent about how personal data is used. The decisions also reveal some core differences in approach between the DPC, the Irish national privacy regulator in this case, and the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). It signals the likelihood of ongoing wrangling between the various European data regulators as they seek to interpret the decisions and as they are (inevitably) challenged through the courts.
The penalty imposed against Meta Ireland
The substantial fines of €210m (approximately $223m) with respect to Facebook and €180m (approximately $191m) with respect to Instagram reflect the consolidated turnover of the Meta group and the level of fines which, in the EDPB’s view, are required to be effective, proportionate and dissuasive in accordance with Article 83(1) of the GDPR. Meta now has 3 months to take corrective action and amend its privacy policies (including identifying an appropriate legal basis for processing) and its operations to bring its data processing in line with the GDPR.
Continue reading “Meta Fines Expose EU Regulators’ Differences and Highlight Fundamental Issues for Data Controllers”