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Safe Harbor Update: Safe Harbor Sequel Coming Soon?

As we wrote on October 6, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) announced its invalidation of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor program as a legally valid pathway for transferring personal data of European Union (EU) residents from the EU to the United States. An avalanche of reports, analyses and predictions followed the CJEU announcement because so many U.S. businesses operating in the EU relied on the validity of the Safe Harbor program.

As we expected, the CJEU decision was not the final chapter. On October 16, the Article 29 Working Party on the Protection of Individuals with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data (the Working Party, an independent advisory board to data protection authorities in EU members states) called on the EU member states to “open discussions with the US” to find a viable alternative to the Safe Harbor program.

Echoing the CJEU’s concern about “massive and indiscriminate surveillance” by the U.S. government, the Working Party challenged the United States and EU to produce by 31 January 2016, a new data transfer framework with “stronger guarantees” of EU residents’ “fundamental rights” to data privacy, as well as “redress mechanisms” for violations.

In the meantime, the Working Party affirmed that data transfers formerly validated by the Safe Harbor program are not legal. It also noted its intent to evaluate the validity of the two other key data EU-U.S. transfer pathways: Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) and Standard Contractual Clauses.

What This Means for U.S. Businesses

While waiting for news of Safe Harbor: The Sequel, our Privacy and Data Protection Group continues to advise a business that relied on the Safe Harbor program to:

  1. Classify the data transferred from the EU to the United States (employee, consumer, business contacts, etc.).
  2. Determine which of the data transfers from the EU to the United States were formerly validated by Safe Harbor.
  3. Identify vendors that transfer EU personal data for the business and determine how those vendors validate their transfers (e.g., Did a vendor represent that it could make legitimate transfers via Safe Harbor, and, if so, what happens now?).
  4. Decide how best to address EU to U.S. personal data transfers under one of the other data transfer pathways based on data classification (e.g., Binding Corporate Rules for intra-company transfers; Standard Contractual Clauses for transfers to third parties that do not otherwise meet EU requirements; or consent of each EU data subject—an impractical option for high-volume transfers).

Stay tuned for more on Safe Harbor: The Sequel and guidance for businesses.




Italian Data Privacy Authority’s Public Consultation on the Internet of Things

On April 28, 2015, the Italian Data Privacy Authority (the Authority) launched a public consultation on the Internet of Things aimed at collecting contributions from stakeholders and assessing its potential impact on consumers’ privacy. This public consultation in Italy follows the opinion of the EU Article 29 Working Party of September 2014 and a more recent report of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission of January 2015, which had identified a number of issues and challenges in relation to the Internet of Things. Interested parties can submit their comments to the Authority by e-mail within 180 days of the publication in the Official Journal of the decision to launch the consultation (expected in the next few days).

This is an outstanding opportunity for stakeholders to provide their contribution on issues such as users’ profiling, data anonymization, the applicability of the data protection by design principles and the use of certification and authentication tools, in order to identify a set of best practices to ensure that compliance with data privacy rules does not constitute a limit to the development of Internet of Things technologies. The consultation might hopefully result in the adoption of specific guidance by the Authority on the application of data privacy rules to businesses active in the Internet of Things market, which currently face significant compliance issues.




Consumer Health Information Update from Both Sides of the Atlantic

As we reported in May 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) convened stakeholders to explore whether health-related information collected from and about consumers — known as consumer-generated health information (CHI) — through use of the internet and increasingly-popular lifestyle and fitness mobile apps is more sensitive and in need of more privacy-sensitive treatment than other consumer-generated data.

One of the key questions raised during the FTC’s CHI seminar is: “what is consumer health information”?  Information gathered during traditional medical encounters is clearly health-related.  Information gathered from mobile apps designed as sophisticated diagnostic tools also is clearly health-related — and may even be “Protected Health Information,” as defined and regulated by Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), depending on the interplay of the app and the health care provider or payor community.  But, other information, such as diet and exercise, may be viewed by some as wellness or consumer preference data (for example, the types of foods purchased).  Other information (e.g., shopping habits) may not look like health information but, when aggregated with other information generated by and collected from consumers, may become health-related information.  Information, therefore, may be “health information,” and may be more sensitive as such, depending on (i) the individual from whom it is collected, (ii) the context in which it is initially collected; (iii) the other information which it is combined; (iv) the purpose for which the information was initially collected; and (v) the downstream uses of the information.

Notably, the FTC is not the only regulatory body struggling with how to define CHI.  On February 5, 2015, the European Union’s Article 29 Working Party (an EU representative body tasked with advising EU Member States on data protection) published a letter in response to a request from the European Commission to clarify the definitional scope of “data concerning health in relation to lifestyle and wellbeing apps.”

The EU’s efforts to define CHI underscore the importance of understanding CHI.  The EU and the U.S. data privacy and security regimes differ fundamentally in that the EU regime broadly protects personally identifiable information.  The US does not currently provide universal protections for personally identifiable information.  The U.S. approach varies by jurisdiction and type of information and does not uniformly regulate the mobile app industry or the CHI captured by such apps.  These different regulatory regimes make the EU’s struggle to define the precise scope and definition of “lifestyle and wellbeing” data (CHI) and develop best practices going forward all the more striking because, even absent such a definition, the EU privacy regime would offer protections.

The Article 29 Working Party letter acknowledges the European Commission’s work to date, including the European Commission’s “Green Paper on Mobile Health,” which emphasized the need for strong privacy and security protections, transparency – particularly with respect to how CHI interoperates with big data  – and the need for specific legislation on CHI-related  apps or regulatory guidance that will promote “the safety and performance of lifestyle and wellbeing apps.”  But, [...]

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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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