On July 15, 2021, the Belgian Supervisory Authority (“SA”) released a 40-page draft recommendation on the use of biometric data and launched a public consultation to solicit feedback about it.

Most notably, the SA points out that there is no valid legal basis other than explicit consent (with all the GDPR limitations attached to it) that would enable the processing of biometric data for authentication purposes (e.g., security), because Belgian lawmakers failed to adopt the required national legislation to supplement the GDPR (specifically, to underpin the public interest exception found in Art. 9(2)(g) GDPR for processing sensitive personal data).  The SA considers this outcome a departure from the rules that applied prior to the GDPR, and will therefore allow a one-year grace period to give controllers and lawmakers sufficient time to address the issue.


Continue Reading Belgian Supervisory Authority Launches Public Consultation on the Use of Biometric Data

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination programs across the EU and the UK, employers are faced with questions about whether or not they are legally permitted to ask employees about their vaccination status and, if so, how that information may be used.

Employers may wish to inquire about the vaccination status of their employees in order to comply with their general obligation to ensure a safe workplace and minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.  This raises privacy issues under the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), because employees’ vaccination status falls within a special category of personal data that concerns the health of individuals (Art. 9(1)).  This category is subject to more stringent data protection measures due to the sensitive and personal nature of data, and can only be processed in very limited circumstances (Art. 9(2)).


Continue Reading COVID-19: Processing of Vaccination Data by Employers in Europe

On June 28, 2021, the European Commission adopted two decisions finding that the UK’s data protection regime provides an “adequate” level of protection for personal data transferred to the UK from the EU.  The first decision covers transfers governed by the GDPR, and permits private companies located in the EU to continue to transfer personal data to the UK without the need for additional arrangements (such as the Commission’s new Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCCs”), which we discuss here).  The second decision covers transfers under the Data Protection and Law Enforcement Directive, and permits EU law enforcement agencies to continue to transfer personal data to their counterparts in the UK.
Continue Reading European Commission Adopts Final UK Adequacy Decisions

The new standard contractual clauses (“SCCs“) issued by the European Commission (see our prior blog post here) continue to prove controversial.  Among other things, the SCCs require that the law of the European Union (“EU“) Member State underpinning them provides third-party beneficiary rights.  Most EU Member States are civil law jurisdictions that already provide such rights.  Ireland, however, is a common law jurisdiction like the U.S. and the UK, and as such, depends largely on evolving case law to define the scope of various rights and obligations.
Continue Reading New Standard Contractual Clauses Raise Questions Under Irish Law

On June 1, 2021, several German supervisory authorities (“SAs”) announced the launch of a “nationwide investigation” into German companies transferring personal data outside of the European Economic Area.  Currently, there is no official list of all the SAs participating in the investigation, but at least 8 of Germany’s 16 regional SAs have announced their intention to take part in it, including: Baden Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland.
Continue Reading German Supervisory Authorities Probe Data Transfers

In April 2021, the European Commission released its proposed Regulation Laying Down Harmonized Rules on Artificial Intelligence (the “Regulation”), which would establish rules on the development, placing on the market, and use of artificial intelligence systems (“AI systems”) across the EU. The proposal, comprising 85 articles and nine annexes, is part of a wider package of Commission initiatives aimed at positioning the EU as a world leader in trustworthy and ethical AI and technological innovation.

The Commission’s objectives with the Regulation are twofold: to promote the development of AI technologies and harness their potential benefits, while also protecting individuals against potential threats to their health, safety, and fundamental rights posed by AI systems. To that end, the Commission proposal focuses primarily on AI systems identified as “high-risk,” but also prohibits three AI practices and imposes transparency obligations on providers of certain non-high-risk AI systems as well. Notably, it would impose significant administrative costs on high-risk AI systems of around 10 percent of the underlying value, based on compliance, oversight, and verification costs. This blog highlights several key aspects of the proposal.


Continue Reading European Commission Proposes New Artificial Intelligence Regulation

On April 27, 2021, the Irish Oireachtas Committee on Justice met in Dublin to consider recent written submissions received criticising the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC).  The meeting was divided into two hour-long meetings with the first meeting devoted to the criticisms of Max Schrems, the Austrian privacy campaigner, and Fred Logue, an Irish data protection lawyer.  The second meeting, the longer of the two, heard from Helen Dixon, the Data Protection Commissioner, and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties.

Ten politicians, including the Chair (a lawyer with data law experience), questioned each of the invitees on what was a limited agenda.  Each participant was limited to a five minute opening statement after which member politicians attending queried them.  Discussion of ongoing cases was not permitted.

The Committee scheduled Mr. Schrems and Ms. Dixon on separate panels, presumably to avoid a repeat of Ms. Dixon’s objection to the previous invitation from the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee proposing to hear from both together at the same hearing.  Each in turn were the key participants in their panel discussions.  Mr. Schrems repeated criticisms he has made previously and Ms. Dixon gave a strong defence of her office.
Continue Reading Irish Parliamentary Committee Hearing Discusses Criticism of the Irish DPC

On February 18, 2021, the District Court of Berlin overturned a €14.5 million fine that had been imposed on German real estate company Deutsche Wohnen SE.  The Court held that the fine – which was issued by the Berlin Supervisory Authority (“SA”) and had been the second highest fine in Germany so far under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) – failed to satisfy certain rules under German law, and therefore was invalid.

This case raises important questions on the interplay between the GDPR and German law regarding the attribution of regulatory offenses to a company.  In this blog post, we consider this topic in greater depth and how it may eventually be resolved in court.


Continue Reading German Court Overturns GDPR Fine, Raises Legal Questions About Fines Against Companies

On February 3, 2021, the Conference of the Supervisory Authorities (“SAs”) of Germany (known as the Datenschutzkonferenz or “DSK”) published minutes from its meetings held in November 2020 (available here, in German).  The minutes include discussions about how the German SAs plan to enforce the recent Schrems II ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”).  Notably, the Berlin SA (coordinator of the DSK’s Schrems II task force) sought consensus to ensure a joint enforcement approach.

Continue Reading German Supervisory Authorities Plan to Circulate Questionnaires on Personal Data Transfers in Wake of Schrems II Decision

On January 18, 2021, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) published its draft Guidelines 01/2021 on Examples regarding Data Breach Notification (“Guidelines”) (available here).  The Guidelines aim to assist data controllers in responding to and assessing the risk of personal data breaches, providing “practice-oriented, case-based guidance” which draws from the experiences of European supervisory authorities since the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR” or “Regulation”) went into effect in 2018.

The Guidelines are currently open for public consultation until March 2, 2021.  In this blog post, we summarize a few key takeaways from the Guidelines.


Continue Reading EDPB Publishes Draft Guidelines on Data Breach Notification Examples