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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Welcome back to our two-part series examining CNIL vs. Google: 10 lessons from the largest data protection fine ever issued.  In this post we continue our analysis of CNIL vs. Google by taking a closer look at the additional lessons we can learn from this important decision. 

6. …tell data subjects exactly what you’re doing with their data

CNIL found that it was hard for users to understand what Google was doing with their data. They commented: “Users are not able to fullly understand the extent of the processing operations… the purposes of processing are described in too generic and vague a manner and so are the categories of data processed for these various purposes.”

The lesson here is: tell data subjects clearly what data you are collecting and what you are using it for. Do not try to obfuscate it.
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In January 2019, the French data protection authority, CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des libertés), announced that it had fined Google 57 million euros (approximately £44 million or USD$65 million) for breaching the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) through its use of targeted advertising.

The fine arose out of complaints made against Google to CNIL by privacy activists immediately after the GDPR came into force in May 2018. At the time of writing, it is the largest data protection fine ever issued – but what can we learn from CNIL’s decision?
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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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As previously discussed, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) created heightened consent standards for companies processing and sharing personal data of EU data subjects.  When processing personal data under the GDPR, consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.  Further, the GDPR requires affirmative action by the user, forcing them to manually “check/click” opt-in boxes.  This removes the potential for “implied consent” under past acceptable practice, where the consent box was already “checked/clicked” for users; under that practice the user gave “implied consent” unless the box was manually “unchecked”  (withdrawing their consent).

While the GDPR governs the processing and sharing of personal data, a second set of regulations has already been regulating electronic direct marketing (EDM).  The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sets rules that organizations must follow when sending EDM.  As a result, when organizations process personal data for use in EDM campaigns, there must be compliance with both the GDPR and PECR.


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In the matter of LabMD Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, case number 16-16270, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled against the FTC, finding that the order against LabMD for lax data security measures was not enforceable.

The FTC’s original order against LabMD was due to a 2008 security incident where a LabMD employee downloaded a program which exposed customer information over the internet. Although customer harm was never shown by FTC, in 2016 the agency issued a Final Order against LabMD for unreasonable data security practices. The case was eventually brought before the Eleventh Circuit by LabMD to determine if the alleged failure to implement reasonable data security measures in 2008 was an unfair practice under Section 5(a) of the FTC Act.


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After 25 May 2018, data protection will be a high-risk issue for all retailers who fall within the scope of the GDPR. Organizations can be fined up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover or 20 million euros (whichever is greater) for violations of the GDPR. Moreover, the GDPR applies to any business that targets goods or services at individuals located in the EU – so retailers can be caught by the GDPR even if they have no physical presence in the Union.

Retailers should pay particular attention to how they obtain customers’ consent to marketing. The GDPR requires a high standard for consent to use personal data, and violation of the consent is a serious infringement.


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On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect. Are you ready?

Who’s affected?  

Organizations, anywhere in the world, that process the personal data of European Union (EU) residents should pay attention to GDPR and its territorial scope.

If you collect personal data or behavioral information from someone in the EU