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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now in effect.  On the 25th of May, the day the GDPR took effect, Commissioner Jourová made a speech, in Brussels, at the General Data Protection Regulation conference to mark the beginning of a new chapter in data protection’s history in the EU. In her speech, the Commissioner recalled that data protection is of vital importance for EU citizens as personal data protection is a fundamental right in the EU and that this matter is also crucial for businesses as personal data protection is an issue for trust in the digital market.

However, some EU countries, including Belgium, Greece and Hungary for example, missed the May 25th deadline and are not ready to fully enforce the GDPR. This creates legal uncertainty for both citizens and companies.


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The EU and U.S. competent authorities have one year to implement the recommendations that the Article 29 Working Party (WP29, which is a gathering of all EU national data protection authorities) made in its opinion of November 28, 2017 to increase the level of personal data protection provided by the Privacy Shield framework. As they announced in this opinion, failure to do so will result in these authorities challenging the validity of the Privacy Shield adequacy decision before courts. Such a cancellation could lead to certified U.S. companies losing their certification (2,400 companies, including web giants and major cloud providers), having to freeze data flows and implementing other legal mechanisms allowing them to import personal data from the EU.

It should be noted that the EU and U.S. authorities negotiated the Privacy Shield under a perspective that was more in line with Directive 95/46 (the main data protection applicable instrument at the time of negotiation) than with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR will repeal this Directive and increase the level of protection of personal data from May 25, 2018, and the WP29 will plan to prepare businesses for it.

In its report, the WP29 focuses on guarantees of enforcement and efficiency.
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On September 15, 2017, the Trump White House released a Press Release regarding the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield—reiterating that they “firmly believe that the upcoming review [of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield] will demonstrate the strength of the American promise to protect the personal data of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The first alliance of

Between the cancellation of the Safe Harbor by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the adoption of the Privacy Shield, a number of data exporters have relied on the Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC) as the safest export tool to transfer personal data from the EU to the U.S. But as announced