The European Parliament passed a resolution today strongly criticizing Privacy Shield and recommending that Privacy Shield be suspended as of September 1, 2018, if the US doesn’t shape up by that deadline.  Should US companies that rely on Privacy Shield panic?

No.

The European Parliament has no power to suspend Privacy Shield on September 1, 2018, or any other date.  Only two entities can do that:  the European Commission, or the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).  And the CJEU might just do that when it rules sometime during the next year or so on the new case between Maximillian Schrems and Facebook (Case C-311/18).  There’s no new information on the Schrems II case at CJEU, but we are tracking it.   That one is worth worrying about.

The European Parliament’s resolution does have some political weight, however.   The Commission is required to respond to the Parliament within three months explaining what it is going to do – if anything – in response to the Parliament’s criticisms.   And if the Commission shrugs its shoulders, there’s not much the Parliament can do except pass another resolution.

The final version of the European Parliament’s resolution is not available yet on the Parliament’s website (it was just passed today), but the proposed form can be found here. 

The clock is ticking down to May 25, 2018 , the date that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect.   The GDPR is likely to be a game-changer for US companies doing business with the European Union, and many are racing against the clock to figure out exactly what their compliance obligations are.

We are presenting an in-person seminar in three cities to help make sure your company is on the right course to GDPR compliance.

Join us in either Boston, New York or Washington, DC for a look at GDPR Essentials and GDPR Hot Topics.    Register here.

Mintz Levin is an approved CLE provider and this seminar is accredited in California and New York.   We are also approved by the International Association of Privacy Professionals for IAPP CPE credit.

As was generally expected from informal comments by EU representatives, Privacy Shield has survived its first annual review.  Commissioner Jourova stated: “Our first review shows that the Privacy Shield works well, but there is some room for improving its implementation.”  Specifically, the Commission highlighted the following in the press release today in which it announced its conclusions:

  • More proactive and regular monitoring of companies’ compliance with their Privacy Shield obligations by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The U.S. Department of Commerce should also conduct regular searches for companies making false claims about their participation in the Privacy Shield.
  • More awareness-raising for EU individuals about how to exercise their rights under the Privacy Shield, notably on how to lodge complaints.
  • Closer cooperation between privacy enforcers i.e. the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Trade Commission, and the EU Data Protection Authorities (DPAs), notably to develop guidance for companies and enforcers.
  • Enshrining the protection for non-Americans offered by Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD-28), as part of the ongoing debate in the U.S. on the reauthorisation and reform of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • To appoint as soon as possible a permanent Privacy Shield Ombudsperson, as well as ensuring the empty posts are filled on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).

It’s worth noting the recommendation regarding enshrining the protections for non-Americans under Presidential Policy Directive 28 in the reauthorization of Section 702 — while President Trump has not withdrawn PPD-28, it’s not a given that protection for foreigners will be built into FISA.

The full report is available here.

EU laws concerning the transfer of employee personal data to the US are complex, and penalties for getting it wrong are set to increase dramatically when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect in May 2018. Whether you’re in-house counsel, a human resources professional, or a business owner, join us for a review of the current options for transferring personal data, including under Privacy Shield, and a preview of the new landscape under GDPR.

New York and California CLE credit available – register here – 

 

Executive summary:  The EU’s standard contractual clauses may be on the fast track to invalidation, putting a vast number of personal data transfers from the EEA at risk.  A case brought by Maximilian Schrems (whose first complaint resulted in the invalidation of Safe Harbor) has been referred to the EU’s highest court, via a 153-page Irish High Court decision that provides ample ammunition to those who would like to see the standard contractual clauses struck down.  Although aimed at Facebook, the consequences of the decision are virtually certain to affect all US companies that rely on the standard contractual clauses.

Many companies around the world rely on the EU’s standard contractual clauses (also known as the model clauses, and referred to in this article as the “SCCs”) as the legal basis for transferring personal data from the European Economic Area (EEA) to countries whose privacy laws have not been found adequate by the EU Commission.  The SCCs are private contracts, and while some EEA countries require that parties that enter into SCCs deposit a copy, other countries do not, so no one knows for sure how many companies rely on the SCCs.  But the answer is probably “an awful lot of companies.”  Given the data flows between the EEA and US, and the fact that, as of today, only around 2,500 companies rely on Privacy Shield as the legal basis for the data transfers, it’s safe to assume that for US companies, the standard contractual clauses are the primary mechanism for transferring personal data to the US.

The SCCs have been subject to a legal challenge by Maximillian Schrems (often called the Schrems II case) that has just reached a critical inflection point: The Irish High Court has just issued a decision referring to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) the question of whether the SCCs are invalid.  The main thrust of the invalidity argument is the assertion that US national security laws do not offer adequate levels of protection for the rights of EU residents.  In particular, the argument runs, EU residents lack a meaningful remedy before US courts for uses of their personal data by US national security agencies that are inconsistent with those persons’ rights under EU law. Continue Reading Will the EU box itself in?  Fate of Standard Contractual Clauses (aka the Model Clauses) for personal data transfers is now in the hands of the EU’s highest court

Since September, the Mintz Levin Privacy Webinar Series has focused on the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to help businesses understand the reach and scope of the GDPR and prepare for the potentially game-changing privacy regulation. The GDPR will affect how US businesses handle and process personal data originating in the EU and may require changes to business process.

This week, we’ll explore the ways in which the Regulation creates new avenues for data transfers, and narrows others. In particular, we will consider sector-specific Commission decisions, privacy seals/certifications, the exception for non-repetitive, limited transfers, and the outlook for BCRs and Model Clauses. Make sure to join us for this important webinar!

Registration link is here.

Even president-elect Donald Trump has been the victim of a data breach. Several times actually. The payment card system for his Trump Hotel Collection was infected by malware in May 2014 and 70,000 credit card numbers were compromised by the time the hack was discovered several months later.  The hotel chain paid a penalty to the State of New York for its handling of that incident.  The hotel chain also experienced at least two additional breaches during this past year affecting various properties. From a business perspective, Mr. Trump certainly understands the high costs of cybersecurity in dollars and distraction. But from the Oval Office, it is far less clear what the Trump Administration might do to secure our country’s digital infrastructure and prosecute cybercriminals. Equally uncertain are Mr. Trump’s views on privacy rights and how his presidency might affect federal protections for personal information and cross-border transfers of data. We do not have a crystal ball, but offer some thoughts. Continue Reading The Cyber President? What To Expect From the Trump Administration On Cybersecurity And Privacy

The certification forms for the new US-EU Privacy Shield Framework are now available online.   What is not easily discernible in the workflow is the fee structure.  One needs to refer back to the Federal Register’s implementation notice, published July 22. To save our readers the trouble, here is the “cost recovery program”:

 

Organization’s annual revenue Annual fee
$0 to $5 million $250
Over $5 million to $25 million 650
Over $25 million to $500 million 1,000
Over $500 million to $5 billion 2,500
Over $5 billion 3,250

The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has released a brief updated statement on the final form of the Privacy Shield adequacy decision and supporting annexes.  WP29 is an important advisory group made up of representatives of each of the EU’s national data protection authorities.   In a nutshell, WP29 has said that Privacy Shield isn’t perfect, but it will wait until the first annual review to raise specific objections, which gives the Privacy Shield program enough time to get up and running.  The WP29 statement promises  that, during the first annual review of Privacy Shield, “the national representatives of the WP29 will not only assess if the remaining issues have been solved but also if the safeguards provided under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield are workable and effective.”  WP29 goes on to say that “[t]he results of the first joint review regarding access by U.S. public authorities to data transferred under the Privacy Shield may also impact transfer tools such as Binding Corporate Rules and Standard Contractual Clauses.”

While WP29’s statement has been interpreted by at least one legal news source as a one-year moratorium on Privacy Shield litigation,  that seems rather unlikely.  The WP29 does not have  the legal power to deprive any EU data subject of his or her right to challenge Privacy Shield on human rights grounds, or to materially delay such a challenge.  If a national DPA refused to hear a complaint on the basis of the putative WP29 moratorium, the national courts would most likely find against the DPA.

A more modest — and realistic- – interpretation of the WP29 opinion would be that the DPAs themselves won’t seek to scupper Privacy Shield during its first year.  Instead, they will leave that to Max Schrems and other individuals who remain skeptical of the EU-US privacy deal.

The EU Commission has formally adopted Privacy Shield and the US Department of Commerce will go live with a new Privacy Shield registration website on August 1.  US companies that had been registered under Safe Harbor will need to complete a new internal review, self-certification and registration to take advantage of Privacy Shield.

Much of the negotiation of Privacy Shield has focused on enforcement and oversight of the program by US authorities (as well as on the US intelligence agencies’ own collection and use of EU personal data).  Companies that are already familiar with Safe Harbor will find Privacy Shield’s general privacy principles to be very similar.  However, companies will want to take note of the more stringent conditions for onward transfers to third parties, which are likely to require companies to review their contracts with service providers and business partners.  Companies will also need to scrutinize their data retention practices carefully.  Overall, annual data protection reviews will be necessary as part of continued self-certification. The Department of Commerce is expected to take a more active role in proactively monitoring compliance, so companies will need to be prepared for inspections even if no complaints have been made.

The final version of Privacy Shield and its appendices, along with a press release and FAQ, are available here.