On March 21, 2022, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) published its draft Guidelines 3/2022 on Dark patterns in social media platform interfaces (hereafter “Guidelines”, available here), following the EDPB’s plenary session held on March 14, 2022.  The stated objective of the Guidelines is to provide practical guidance to both designers and users of social media platforms about how to identify and avoid so-called “dark patterns” in social media interfaces that would violate requirements set out in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).  In this sense, the Guidelines serve both to instruct organizations on how to design of their platforms and user interfaces in a GDPR-compliant manner, as well as to educate users on how certain practices they are subject to could run contrary to the GDPR (which could, as a result, lead to an increase in GDPR complaints arising from such practices).  The Guidelines are currently subject to a 6-week period of public consultation, and interested parties are invited to submit feedback directly to the EDPB here (see “provide your feedback” button).

In this blog post, we summarize the Guidelines and identify key takeaways.  Notably, while the Guidelines are targeted to designers and users of social media platforms, they may offer helpful insights to organizations across other sectors seeking to comply with the GDPR, and in particular, its requirements with respect to fairness, transparency, data minimization, purpose limitation, facilitating personal data rights, and so forth.

Continue Reading EDPB Publishes Draft Guidelines on the Use of “Dark Patterns” in Social Media Interfaces

On February 24, 2022, the Irish Data Protection Commission (“DPC”) published its 2021 annual report setting out its activities and outcomes for last year (see press release here and the full report here).  At 120 pages long, it is detailed and specific, and in places, comes with a targeted and reflective commentary.  Overall, it provides readers with useful insights into the work of a supervisory authority at the forefront of Europe’s data protection whirlwinds.

Continue Reading Irish Data Protection Commission Publishes 2021 Annual Report

On February 23, 2022, the European Commission published the draft EU Regulation on harmonized rules on fair access to and use of data, also referred to as the “Data Act” (available here).  The Data Act is just the latest EU legislative initiative, sitting alongside the draft Data Governance Act, Digital Services Act, and Digital Markets Act, motivated by the EU’s vision to create a single market for data and to facilitate greater access to data.

Among other things, the proposed Regulation:

  • grants “users” of connected “products” and “related services” – meaning a digital service incorporated in or inter-connected with a product in such a way that its absence would prevent the product from performing one of its functions – offered in the EU rights to access and port to third parties the data generated through their use of these products and services (including both personal and non-personal data);
  • requires manufacturers of these products and services to facilitate the exercise of these rights, including by designing them in such a way that any users – which may be natural and legal persons – can access the data they generate;
  • requires parties with the right, obligation or ability to make available certain data (including through the Data Act itself) – so-called ”data holders” – to make available to users the data that the users themselves generate, upon request and “without undue delay, free of charge, and where applicable, continuously and in real-time”;
  • requires data holders to enter into a contract with other third-party “data recipients” on data sharing terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory; relatedly, any compensation agreed between the parties must be “reasonable” and the basis for calculating the compensation transparent, with special rules set out for micro, small or medium-sized data recipients to facilitate their access to the data at reduced cost;
  • authorizes public sector bodies and Union institutions, agencies or bodies to request access to the data in “exceptional need” situations;
  • requires certain digital service providers, such as cloud and edge service providers, to implement safeguards that protect non-personal data from being accessed outside the EU where this would create a conflict with EU or Member State law;
  • requires such data processing service providers to make it easy for the customers of such services to switch or port their data to third-party services; and
  • imposes interoperability requirements on operators of “data spaces”.

As a next step, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament will analyze the draft Regulation, propose amendments and strive to reach a compromise text that both institutions can agree upon.  Below, we discuss the key provisions of the Data Act in more detail.
Continue Reading European Commission Publishes Draft Data Act

On January 28, 2022, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) initiated a public consultation on its draft Guidelines 01/2022 on data subject rights – Right of access (“draft Guidelines”). Running to 60 pages, the draft Guidelines cover a range of topics relating to the right of access, including analyzing a request; establishing

On January 20, 2022, the European Parliament agreed amendments to the draft version of the Digital Services Act (“DSA”) that the Council agreed on November 25, 2021(see the European Parliament’s announcement here and agreed text here;  see our blog post about the Council’s draft here).  As a next step, the Parliament will discuss these

One of every five people (20.5%) in Ireland are children under the age of 14.  This constitutes the highest proportion of children in the EU, where the average was 15.2% in 2019.  Ireland’s proportion of young people under the age of 30 is also the highest in the EU, at 39%.  It’s an influential figure for Irish policy makers and regulators, who have strengthened their approach to protection of children’s personal data in recent years.  This greater emphasis on children’s rights is due to a number of additional intersecting dynamics including EU law, child abuse scandals, a rise in cyberbullying, and a growing consensus that children face heightened digital risks.  These dynamics have also informed the planned establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner, currently advancing as part of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill just published and currently receiving strong media attention.

Together with the Irish DPC role as lead regulator for many leading technology and social media companies, these legal and cultural headwinds provide the context within which the DPC aims to develop strong child data protection standards.

Introduction

Following extensive public consultation, with experts as well as school children, the DPC has issued comprehensive guidance on the processing of children’s data.  Entitled “Children Front and Centre: Fundamentals for a Child-Oriented Approach to Data Processing,” the guidance sets out 14 principles (referred to as “the Fundamentals”) for organizations engaged in processing the personal data of children.

In addition to the usual GDPR expectations, the specific Fundamentals also include:

  • Zero interference with a child’s best interests, where organizations rely on legitimate interests as their legal basis for processing;
  • “Know your customer” requirements focusing on child-oriented transparency; and
  • Specific guidance around age verification and consent

The overall aim of the Fundamentals, in protecting the best interests of children, is to at least set a default floor of high standardised protection for all data subjects where children may form part of a mixed user audience.

Continue Reading Irish DPC Publishes Guidance On Processing Children’s Personal Data

On 22 December 2021, the conference of German data protection supervisory authorities (“DSK”) published its Guidance for Providers of Telemedia Services (Orientierungshilfe für Anbieter von Telemedien).  Particularly relevant for providers of websites and mobile applications, the Guidance is largely devoted to the “cookie provision” of the German Telecommunication and Telemedia Privacy Act (TTDSG), which came into force on 1 December 2021.  The publication  focuses on the consent requirement for cookies and similar technologies, as well as relevant exceptions, introduced by the law.

Continue Reading German Regulators Publish Cookie Guidance

On November 26, 2021, the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) held in Case C-102/20 that the display of advertising messages in an electronic inbox in a form similar to that of an actual email constitutes direct marketing, and therefore is subject to EU Member States’ rules on direct marketing (see press release here

On November 18, 2021, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) issued an opinion on several data retention cases before by the Court, following a long line of CJEU jurisprudence on this topic.

To give context to the issues considered in these cases, Europe’s experience of totalitarian regimes in the last century has shaped its approach to privacy rights.  This is evident in the GDPR and in the decisions of the CJEU to date.  But there remain tensions that are complex and difficult to deal with in this area — notably, the tension between individual rights to privacy and data protection on one hand, and the duty of the State to protect its population against security threats and crime on the other.  These tensions do not marry easily, as surveillance of personal electronic communications is increasingly demanded to detect and deal with crime and terrorism.

Continue Reading Advocate General Releases Opinion in CJEU Referrals on Data Retention