Cyber Risk & Data Privacy

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In Martin v Data Protection Commissioner [2016] IEHC 479, Mr Martin sought to challenge the Data Protection Commissioner’s (DPC) refusal to investigate disputed facts of his data protection complaint via an oral hearing. The High Court held that the DPC was not empowered to hold an oral hearing under the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC or the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 (the Acts), even where there is a conflict of evidence. Furthermore, the requirements of natural and constitutional justice do not confer an inherent power on the DPC to do so.

The decision confirms that it cannot be inferred from the Acts, which impose on the DPC a duty to investigate and make a decision in relation to a complaint, that the DPC has the power to conduct an oral hearing. Individuals do, however, have a right to appeal a decision of the DPC to the Circuit Court where an oral hearing can take place.

Continue Reading High Court refuses oral hearing of complaint to Data Protection Commissioner

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On 28 July 2016, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), in VKI v Amazon EU Sárl (Case C-191/15)reconfirmed its earlier decision in Weltimmo (C-230/14) regarding the test for applicable law in relation to data processing activities.

The CJEU held that the processing of personal data by an undertaking engaged in electronic commerce is governed by the law of the Member State to which it directs its activities, if the undertaking carries out the data processing in question “in the context of the activities” of an establishment situated in that Member State.  It is for the national court to determine whether that is the case.  The fact that the undertaking does not have a branch or subsidiary in that Member State does not preclude it from having an establishment there.  The degree of stability of the arrangements and the effective exercise of activities in the Member State in question must be assessed. 

The CJEU also held that a standard term choosing a seller or supplier’s law as governing law is unfair within the meaning of the Unfair Consumer Contracts Directive (93/13/EEC).  As a result companies will need to consider whether their standard choice of law clauses in Business to Consumer contracts are unfair and therefore invalid.

Continue Reading CJEU delivers judgment on applicable data protection law

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The Advocate General has given his Opinion in a case concerning the interpretation to be given in a national context to the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in 2014 in Digital Rights Ireland (which found the EU Data Retention Directive to be invalid). The Advocate General found that an obligation to retain data imposed by a Member State on providers of electronic communication services may be compatible with EU law, subject to strict requirements.

Continue Reading Advocate General advises that obligation to retain data imposed by a Member State on electronic communications service providers may be compatible with EU law

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The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has issued a Press Release indicating it still has concerns about the Privacy Shield.  However it appears that the WP29 (consisting of representatives of the EU Data Protection Authorities) will refrain from challenging the Privacy Shield until after mid-2017. 

Continue Reading Privacy Shield – Not likely to be challenged by EU DPAs for at least one year

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The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning an earlier court ruling from a lower court, has held that the US Government cannot compel Microsoft to hand over emails stored on a server in Dublin in a narcotics case. The decision is a milestone victory for privacy rights and will be greatly welcomed by US technology companies storing data abroad. It should also provide reassurance to European citizens that their data will be protected by European data protection laws and the US legal system will respect their privacy rights.

Continue Reading Microsoft wins landmark US appeal against search warrant for emails stored in Ireland

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The European Commission has today adopted the Privacy Shield.  The Privacy Shield is intended to provide a framework for EU-US data transfers.

What is the Privacy Shield?

European data protection law restricts the transfer of personal data outside the European Economic Area (EEA) unless the country to which the data is transferred ensures an adequate level of data protection. The Privacy Shield is a mechanism for overcoming this restriction and legitimising the transfer of personal data to some US companies.

Why do we need the Privacy Shield?

Until 6 October 2015, over 4,000 US companies relied on the Safe Harbour regime to legitimise the transfer of personal data to the US.  The Safe Harbour regime was declared invalid by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) on 6 October 2015.  The Privacy Shield will replace the Safe Harbour regime.

After the CJEU’s ruling many US companies turned to the Model Contractual Clauses to legitimise their transatlantic data transfers.  The approval of the Privacy Shield will be welcomed by multinational companies, particularly as the Irish Data Protection Commissioner recently sought a referral to the CJEU to determine the legal status of data transfers under Model Contractual Clauses. However, Model Contractual Clauses remain a valid method of transatlantic transfer unless declared invalid by the CJEU, which may not be determined for up to another two years.

Continue Reading European Commission Adopts Privacy Shield

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On 8 July 2016, Member State representatives (the Article 31 Committee) approved the final version of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, to permit transatlantic transfers of personal data from the EU to the U.S.  The Privacy Shield will replace the invalid Safe Harbour Agreement, to ensure high standards of data protection for transatlantic transfers of data for commercial purposes.

Continue Reading Member States approve Privacy Shield

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Under Section 26 of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003, an appeal before the courts is provided for against a decision of the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to a complaint under Section 10(1)(a) of the Acts. The scope and applicable review standard for such an appeal was one of two key issues which came before the Supreme Court in the recent case of Nowak v. The Data Protection Commissioner (Judgment of O’Donnell J delivered on 28th April 2016).

Continue Reading Nowak v. The Data Protection Commissioner: Data subjects’ right of appeal and testing the boundaries of “personal data”