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Article 29 Working Party Adopts Procedure on Approval of Model Clauses

On 26 November 2014, the Article 29 Working Party adopted a working document on establishing a cooperation procedure for issuing common opinions on whether contractual clauses are compliant with the European Commission’s Model Clauses (Model Clauses).

The working document establishes the procedure in which companies wishing to use identical contractual clauses in different Member States for transfers of personal data outside the European Economic Area (EEA) are able to obtain a coordinated position from the relevant Data Protection Authorities (DPA) on the proposed contracts, without the need to approach each relevant DPA individually for approval.

Background

Model Clauses represent one of the ways that a data controller can overcome the general prohibition contained in the EU Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) on cross-border transfers of personal data to countries outside the EEA that do not offer adequate levels of data protection.  The Model Clauses are intended to be used without amendment – although some divergence, e.g., through the use of additional clauses having no impact on the overall compliance of the Model clauses adopted, may be acceptable.

Company groups in Europe often use identical contractual clauses in different jurisdictions for the purposes of transfers out of the EEA.  However, differing implementation of the Data Protection Directive between Member States has resulted in the situation whereby some jurisdictions require DPA approval of the Model Clauses used (such as Austria, Denmark, France and Spain), whether used with or without amendment, whereas other jurisdictions do not require such DPA approval where the Model Clauses are used without amendment.  The result of the above is that it may be possible that identical contracts using the Model Clauses with only minor amendment are considered compliant by a DPA in one jurisdiction but not in others.

According to the Working Party, the purpose of this working document is to create a procedure allowing companies to obtain a coordinated position from the relevant DPAs when using identical contractual clauses based on the Model Clauses with minor amendment, in particular as to whether the contractual clauses are compliant with the Model Clauses.

The Process

Should a company wish to know whether its contract is compliant with the Model Clauses, under the proposed cooperation procedure, it will first need to ask the DPA it believes is entitled to act as the lead DPA to launch the EU cooperation procedure.

The company will then need to provide the lead DPA a copy of the contract, indicating the references to the Model Clauses together with any divergences and additional clauses, as well a list of EEA countries from which the company will be carrying out the transfers.

The Lead DPA

The Working Party has suggested that the company should choose the lead DPA from a Member State in which the transfers will take place and it will be for the company to justify why the DPA should be considered the lead.  According to the Working Party, the following criteria should be considered by the company:

  1. The location from which the contractual [...]

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Is There an End in Sight for EU Data Protection Reform?

On 5 November 2014, Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), together with Germany’s Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Andrea Voβhoff, held a panel discussion in respect of the state of play and perspectives on EU data protection reform.

Although participants identified a number of key outstanding issues to be resolved prior to the conclusion of the reform process, there was some optimism that such issues could be overcome, and the process completed, before the end of 2015.

Background

The EDPS is an independent supervisory authority whose members are elected by the European Parliament and the Council in order to protect personal information and privacy, in addition to promoting and supervising data protection in the European Union’s institutions and bodies.  The role of the EDPS includes inter alia advising on privacy legislation and policies to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council and working with other data protection authorities (DPA) to promote consistent data protection throughout Europe.

The proposed data protection regulation is intended to replace the 1995 Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) (the Directive) and aims not only to give individuals more control over their personal data, but also make it easier for companies to work across borders by harmonising laws between all EU Member States.  The European Parliament and the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee have driven the progress on new data protection laws, but there has been frustration aimed at the Council of Ministers for their slow progress.  Following the vote by the European Parliament in March 2014 in favour of the new data protection laws, the next steps include the full Ordinary Legislative Procedure (co-decision procedure), which requires the European Parliament and the Council to reach agreement together.

The panel discussion attendees were made up of institutional representatives and key figures involved in the EU Data Protection Reform Package, including: Stefano Mura (Head of the Department for International Affairs at Italy’s Ministry of Justice); Jan Albrecht MEP (Vice-Chair and Rapporteur of the European Parliament LIBE Committee); and Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin (President of CNIL and Chair of the Article 29 Working Party).  The purpose of the panel discussion was to consider the outstanding issues and next steps to finalise proposals on EU data protection reform, particularly in the context of the recent CJEU rulings on data retention and the right to be forgotten.

Key Messages

The key points raised during the panel discussion included:

  • There is optimism that the reform process will be completed in the next year subject to resolving outstanding issues, such as:
    • Whether public authority processing should be included in the proposed data protection regulation – Andrea Voshoff commented that this issue was being considered by the Council of Ministers Committee in relation to the introduction of a clause preventing the lowering of standards by national laws.  Stefano Mura added that while there is a desire for both a uniform approach between the EU Member States and a right for Member States to regulate their own public sectors, a [...]

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