On July 23, 2020, the European Data Protection Board (the “EDPB”) published a set of important responses to a set of 12 frequently asked questions put forward to supervisory authorities regarding the recent Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) decision in Case C-311/18 – Data Protection Commissioner v Facebook Ireland Ltd and Maximillian Schrems (“Schrems II”) (“FAQs”).
Below is a summary of the key take-aways from the EDPB’s FAQs, which is intended to address a range of topics including the lack of a grace period following the decision and the conditions surrounding the use of certain data transfer mechanisms:
In a decision with significant implications for international trade and cross-border data flows, the EU’s highest court – the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) ruled on 16 July 2020 that a key legal mechanism (called the EU-US Privacy Shield program) used to enable transfers of personal data from the European Union (“EU”) was invalid, while also potentially requiring additional protections to be implemented when another key transfer mechanism (called Standard Contractual Clauses) is used. The case – Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland, Max Schrems (“Schrems II”) – considered the validity of the EU-US Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) program (a privacy certification made available for US organizations through an agreement between the European Commission and the US government) and Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCC”) (a form of international data transfer agreement made available for use by the European Commission).
The Supreme Court has recently granted Google permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Lloyd v Google LLC () EWCA Civ 1599). The class action brought against Google by Richard Lloyd, the former editor of consumer protection rights group “Which?”, relates to the alleged tracking of personal data by Google of 4.4 million iPhone users and subsequent selling of the users’ data to advertisers, without the users’ knowledge and consent. Google is now appealing the Court of Appeal’s decision granting Mr Lloyd permission to serve his representative action on Google. This landmark case is of particular importance as it has the potential to significantly widen the scope for claims to be brought in respect of a failure to protect data under the GDPR.
On June 19, 2020, the French Conseil d’État (“Council of State”) issued a decision partially annulling the Guidelines of the French Data Protection Authority (the “CNIL”) on cookies and other tracking tools (“Guidelines”). The Council of State ruled that the CNIL’s Guidelines could not prohibit the use of ‘cookie walls’, a practice which consists of blocking user access to a website where the user refuses to consent to cookies and other tracking tools. Nevertheless, the Council of State confirms the Guidelines on other key points, such as the requirement to facilitate the right to withdraw consent to cookies, the retention period for cookies and the information requirement for cookies not subject to a consent requirement.
On June 25, 2020, Sidley partner, Alan Raul, founder and co-head of Sidley’s privacy and cybersecurity practice, hosted Bruno Gencarelli, head of International Data Flows and Protection at the European Commission, for a Monitor-Side Chat.
The discussion focused largely on the Commission’s report on two years of the GDPR which was issued on 24 June 2020. Key themes of the report include:
- EU data protection authorities (“DPAs”) should increase their efforts towards the adoption of a harmonised approach to responding to cross-border investigations;
- a call for greater resources to be given to DPAs by EU Member States to ensure the GDPR is sufficiently enforced;
- a need for greater consistency among EU Member States on interpretations of the GDPR in national laws in order to avoid unnecessary burdens on companies; and
- greater utilisation of the data portability right under the GDPR to ensure individuals have greater involvement in the digital economy by enabling them to switch between different service providers and make use of other innovative services.
On 19 February 2020, the European Commission published a white paper on the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) in the EU (the “White Paper”). The White Paper forms part of the Commission President, Ursula Von der Leyen’s, digital strategy, one of the key pillars of her administration’s five year tenure, recognising that the EU has fallen behind the US and China with respect to the strategic deployment of AI. To tackle this problem, the Commission proposes a common EU approach to ‘speed up the uptake’ of AI in the EU, whilst also tackling the human and ethical implications of AI’s fast growing use in the EU, including the possible downsides of its use, such as opaque decision making and hidden, embedded gender and racial discrimination. In order to achieve a common EU approach to AI, and to create “trustworthy” AI that can rival developments in the US and China, the Commission proposes the creation of a regulatory framework for AI.
Ongoing confusion about lawful basis for data processing in a clinical study environment: European Data Protection Board and European Commission on the one hand and certain Member States on the other differ on the correct approach. Swiss sponsors operating clinical studies in the EU face ongoing uncertainty around the appropriate lawful basis for processing study subject personal data in spite of guidance being published by the European Commission and the European Data Protection Board.
Case: WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants  UKSC 12
In a decision that employers will welcome, the UK Supreme Court recently ruled that Morrison Supermarkets (Morrisons) was not vicariously liable for a data breach committed maliciously by a former employee who, acting to satisfy a personal vendetta against Morrisons, disclosed employee payroll data online.
On 20 March 2020, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) released a statement on the protection of personal data in connection with measures that public authorities and business organizations (including employers) are taking to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This statement is an extension of the statement released by the EDPB chair on 16 March 2020, (which can be accessed here). In its latest statement, the EDPB emphasises that EU data protection law (in particular, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”)) does not stand in the way of measures adopted to fight against COVID-19 – if these measures are necessary, proportionate and consistent with safeguards required under EU Member State laws. The EDPB statement also provides useful guidance for organisations to consider when adopting measures to lawfully process personal data during this time.
Overall, while EDPB statement may provide some reassurance to organizations with respect to COVID-19 measures, organizations will be advised to consider guidance issued by specific EU Member State data protection authorities as well. In particular, specific EU Member State data protection authorities have begun issuing COVID-19 guidance that is, at least in certain respects divergent: while certain data protection authorities are adopting a more restrictive approach (for example, the French CNIL), others are more permissible (for example, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office).