Amazon’s financial records have revealed that the Luxembourg data protection supervisory authority, the Commission Nationale pour la Protection des Données (“CNPD”), is fining the retailer’s European arm (Amazon Europe Core S.à.r.l.) an eyewatering 746 million euros (£636m or $838m) for breaches of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).

When the GDPR was introduced in May 2018, the potential for huge financial sanctions grabbed many headlines: it gives European supervisory authorities the power to impose fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of annual global turnover (whichever is greater) for breaches of the GDPR. There have been some undeniably sizeable fines issued under the GDPR in the last three years. But the level of this particular fine is extraordinary: it’s the largest GDPR fine issued to date by a considerable margin. The second largest fine ever imposed under the GDPR was a comparatively paltry 50 million euros, levied against Google by CNIL (the French supervisory authority) in early 2019 (which you can read about here).


Continue Reading CNPD v. Amazon, the largest GDPR fine on record – what do we know so far?

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) contains the much-publicised right of subject access, which gives an individual the right to access a copy of all the personal data a controller holds in relation to him or her.

Under the GDPR, anything that can identify a living individual is personal data. Obvious examples include names, dates of birth, and addresses. Less obvious examples include photographs, identification numbers, or statements of opinion or fact about a person.

The GDPR also has extra-territorial scope, which means that it applies to organisations and businesses outside the borders of the EU if they meet certain criteria. Organisations based outside the EU could therefore find themselves on the receiving end of a subject access request (“SAR”) from an employee, customer or any other individual whose data they process.


Continue Reading Subject Access Requests and Cross-Border Privilege: Tips for In-House Counsel

In its long awaited judgment in the Schrems II case, the ECJ has this morning invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield citing the “limitations on the protection of personal data arising from the domestic law of the United States on the access and use by US public authorities” in respect of personal data transferred from the European Union to the United States on the basis that such limitations do not provide the protections ensured under EU law. The ECJ’s concerns centered around certain US surveillance programs which are not limited to what is strictly necessary and EU data subjects not having effective rights of enforcement against US authorities under US laws.

Continue Reading ECJ Invalidates the EU-US Privacy Shield! How Safe is it to Use SCCs for Data Transfers from the EU to the US?

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has announced that it will deliver its judgment in what has become known as the Schrems II case (Case 311/18 Facebook Ireland and Schrems) on 16th July 2020. The judgment will determine the validity of the Standard Contractual Clauses (or Model Clauses) (SCCs) as a transfer mechanism under the GDPR. This case arose following a complaint from Max Schrems, a lawyer and data privacy campaigner to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPA) about transfers of his personal data from Facebook Ireland to Facebook US using SCCs. Mr. Schrems’s position is that Facebook is violating the EU data protection laws by allowing US intelligence authorities to access his personal data. The DPA issued proceedings in the Irish High Court in relation to the matter, which were stayed in 2018, with various questions raised by the DPC relating to SCC referred to the ECJ for determination.

Continue Reading ECJ to Deliver Judgment on the Validity of SCCs on 16th July 2020

The EU-US Privacy Shield (Privacy Shield) has passed its third annual review by the European Commission. A framework constructed by the US Department of Commerce and the European Commission to enable transfers of personal data for commercial purposes, the Privacy Shield enables companies from the EU and the US to comply with data protection requirements when transferring personal data from the EU to the US.

The Privacy Shield was approved by the European Commission on 12 July 2016, and was subject to annual reviews to try and avoid failures that resulted in the downfall of the Safe Harbor Principles, which it replaced. The reviews evaluate all aspects of the functioning of the Privacy Shield framework.
Continue Reading EU-US Privacy Shield Passes its Third Annual Review

The European Union’s (EU) ambitious and far-reaching regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), became effective on 25 May 2018. On the one-year anniversary, we reflect on some of the principal developments following the implementation of the GDPR

European privacy values: a cultural shift

Critics have derided the GDPR for placing an onerous and expensive compliance burden on businesses, causing confusion and creating ‘data privacy fatigue’ amongst consumers and businesses alike.

Conversely, the furore has generated significant publicity around the GDPR, contributing to a cultural shift towards greater consumer empowerment and control over personal information. Public awareness of the GDPR is high – in May 2018, GDPR was searched more often on Google than either Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian. Individuals have a better understanding of their rights in respect of their personal data – which presents more of a risk to data controllers.

Equally, GDPR has completely changed the risk profile of data protection for most businesses. Under the previous, weakly enforced regime, most businesses treated data protection as a low risk issue. Under the new regime, data protection has become a high-risk issue.
Continue Reading The General Data Protection Regulation’s First Birthday

European Commission Comments on GDPR’s One-Year Anniversary

On the one-year anniversary of the GDPR, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market and Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality has released a joint statement on the momentous law: “The main aim of the rules has been to empower people and help them to gain more control over their personal data. This is already happening as people are starting to use their new rights and more than two-third of Europeans have heard of the regulation.”  The entire statement can be found here.

FTC Extends Comment Deadline on Proposed Changes to Safeguards Rule

The FTC has extended the deadline to submit comments on proposed changes to the Safeguards Rule by 60 days until August 2nd.  In March, the FTC announced it was seeking comment on proposed changes to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s Safeguards Rule as well as the Privacy Rule. These regulations require financial institutions to inform customers about its information-sharing practices. More information can be found here.

FBI Reports That Cybercrime Cost $2.7B in 2018

The FBI’s annual Internet Crime Report, states that IC3 received 351,936 complaints in 2018 which is about 900 every day. The statement released with the report said, “[t]he most frequently reported complaints were for non-payment/non-delivery scams, extortion, and personal data breaches. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and investment scams, which can include Ponzi and pyramid schemes.” More information can be found here.
Continue Reading ICYMI: A quick look at recent Privacy and Cybersecurity headlines

On 7 February 2019, the German competition law regulator, the Federal Cartel Office (FCO), concluded a lengthy investigation into Facebook.  It found that the company abused its dominant market position by making the use of its social network conditional on the collection of user data from multiple sources.

The FCO’s probe into Facebook is one of the first cases in the EU concerning the intersection between the EU’s new data privacy laws (contained in the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR) and competition law. The abuse finding under German competition law (which is broadly the same as the pan-EU competition law in this regard) relied on what was, according to the FCO, a breach of EU data protection law.
Continue Reading Federal Cartel Office vs. Facebook: When Data Privacy and Competition Law Collide

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes strict obligations upon organizations that process the “personal data” of European individuals. Failure to comply with GDPR can result in large fines. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), in recent months, issued a number of fines of £500,000 on global businesses with household names, and such fines have generated a lot of publicity. Many onlookers would be shocked by the magnitude of those fines but may not have appreciated that they were imposed under the Data Protection Act 1998, which was in force when the offending breaches occurred. Had the breaches taken place after May 25th of this year, when the GDPR took effect, those fines would more than likely have been significantly higher.

Businesses have therefore invested significant resources and money to make sure that they do not fall foul of the obligations imposed by the GDPR. Yet, within less than a year of the GDPR becoming binding law, those same businesses face further disruption as Brexit looms.
Continue Reading Implications of Brexit on GDPR