12 May 2017

WP29 Adopts Final GDPR Guidelines on Data Portability

The EU’s Article 29 Working Party (“WP29”) adopted, on 5 April 2017, final guidelines on the new right of data portability under the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (“GDPR”) which applies from 25 May 2018.

The European Commission has expressed concerns about WP29’s broad interpretation of article 20 of the GDPR on data portability.

Article 20 gives data subjects the right to have personal data which they have “provided to” a data controller and which is in a machine readable and commonly used format, transferred to another data controller where the processing is based on (i) consent, or (ii) the performance of a contract with the individual.

WP29 considers that the right of data portability not only covers data “provided knowingly and actively” by the data subject, but also covers data generated by his/her activity. This is a critical point for the wearables industry, and includes “observed data provided by the data subject by virtue of the use of the service or the device.” Examples include: search history, traffic data, location data, and “raw data such as the heartbeat tracked by a wearable device.” The WP29 guidelines exclude from the scope of article 20 inferred data such as the health profile drawn up by a controller on the basis of the collected heartbeat.

The European Commission has written to WP29 to complain that the latter’s approach goes beyond what was decided by European legislators. Although WP29’s interpretation benefits data subjects by giving them the right to request more information from, for example, social network platforms, businesses will have the challenging task of compiling all of the requested information, and particularly in a structured format.

This interpretation may also create confusion and uncertainty, which introduces significant risk for the market with GDPR penalties. Violations of article 20 may result in fines of up to 4% of total worldwide annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. Businesses and individuals must be afforded legal certainty, regarding the scope of rights under the GDPR and in complying with those rights what is required and what is not.

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