Archive: September 2021

1
Reminder for our Apple-friendly readers
2
UK consults on new data protection regime
3
GDPR: Irish supervisory authority fines WhatsApp 225 million

Reminder for our Apple-friendly readers

By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards

Apple has released critical security updates for a vulnerability found by researchers at Citizen Lab for several Apple devices. This includes all iPhones, iPads, Mac Computers, Apple Watches and the Safari Web Browser.

The vulnerability could allow a threat actor to infect devices with spyware without the users knowledge. Once infected, the threat actor could then perform any action on the device that a normal user would. This could include actions like turning the camera and microphone on or recording messages, texts, emails, and phone calls.

Apple encourages all users of their products to update their devices as soon as possible.

UK consults on new data protection regime

By Norin McFadden and Claude-Étienne Armingaud

The UK government has unveiled its much-trailed plans to reform its data protection laws, outlined in a consultation document which is open for public comment until 19 November 2021.

Since Brexit was finalised at the start of 2021, the United Kingdom has retained much of the EU General Data Protection Regulation. The government’s plans, if implemented, would see the UK move away from the EU’s approach in several key ways, which may lead to trouble for the continuation of the adequacy decision granted by the EU in June. If terminated, the adequacy decision, currently permitting free flows of personal data between the EU and the UK, could cause increased costs and bureaucracy for businesses on both sides of the Channel to continue their data transfers. 

Some of the changes to the UK GDPR proposed in the consultation document are:

  • Making the legitimate interests lawful basis easier to use, by publishing a limited, exhaustive list of legitimate interests that organisations can use without having to complete a balancing test.
  • Removal of the right to human review of decisions made on the basis of solely automated data processing.
  • Introducing a fee for responding to subject access requests and allowing organisations to refuse to comply with requests at a lower threshold than “manifestly unfounded”, as allowed in the current legislation.

The proposals also introduce potential changes to the UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, including:

  • Increasing the current maximum penalty of £500,000 for breaches of the direct marketing regulations to the higher of 4% of global turnover or £17.5 million, thereby matching the maximum penalty under UK GDPR.
  • Removing the requirement for websites to obtain consent before serving some analytics cookies.
  • Extending the “soft opt in” for direct marketing to organisations other than businesses, such as charities and political parties.

GDPR: Irish supervisory authority fines WhatsApp 225 million

By Claude-Etienne Armingaud, Camille Scarparo and Léa Fertani.

Further to investigations initiated by the Data Protection Commission (or DPC, the Irish supervisory authority) in 2018, Whatsapp Ireland Limited has received a EUR 225 million fine on 2 September 2021. The company infringed multiple GDPR provisions including in relation with the information provided to data subjects which breached the obligation to ensure transparency of processing (Articles 13 and 14 GDPR).

Following GDPR’s one-stop-shop mechanism and as WhatsApp operates cross-border flows of personal data, the DPC had initially been designated as lead supervisory authority (‘LSA’). Article 60 GDPR requires the LSA to submit a draft decision to its impacted counterparts across the European Union (the ‘Concerned Supervisory Authorities’). Such draft has been submitted in December 2020 and the Hungarian, Portuguese, Italian, French, Dutch, Polish, German (local and federal) Concerned Supervisory Authorities unanimously raised objections to the DPC in January 2021. The objections mostly addressed the lax approach by the DPC in the assessment of WhatsApp’s breach of GDPR as well as the amount of the initially contemplated fine in view of the dozens of millions of individuals affected by such breach across the European Union.

This resulted in a non-consensual situation, escalading to the dispute resolution process under Article 65 GDPR conducted by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). The binding decision, adopted on 28 July 2021 and subsequently notified to the DPC, required the Irish supervisory authority to reassess and increase the fine, thus leading to the second-highest fine under GDPR since its entry into force in 2018.

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