The aim of the GDPR is to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches in an increasingly data-driven world that is vastly different from the time in which the 1995 directive was established. Although the key principles of data privacy still hold true to the previous directive, many changes have been proposed to the regulatory policies; the key points of the GDPR as well as information on the impacts it will have on business can be found below.
Increased Territorial Scope (extra-territorial applicability)
Arguably the biggest change to the regulatory landscape of data privacy comes with the extended jurisdiction of the GDPR, as it applies to all companies processing the personal data of data subjects residing in the Union, regardless of the company’s location. GPDR makes its applicability very clear – it will apply to the processing of personal data by controllers and processors in the EU, regardless of whether the processing takes place in the EU or not. The GDPR will also apply to the processing of personal data of data subjects in the EU by a controller or processor not established in the EU, where the activities relate to: offering goods or services to EU citizens (irrespective of whether payment is required) and the monitoring of behaviour that takes place within the EU. Non-EU businesses processing the data of EU citizens will also have to appoint a representative in the EU.
The conditions for consent have been strengthened, and companies will no longer be able to use long illegible terms and conditions full of legalese, as the request for consent must be given in an intelligible and easily accessible form, with the purpose for data processing attached to that consent. Consent must be clear and distinguishable from other matters and provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language. It must be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it.
Data Subject Rights
- Breach Notification. Under the GDPR, breach notification will become mandatory in all member states where a data breach is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals”. This must be done within 72 hours of first having become aware of the breach. Data processors will also be required to notify their customers, the controllers, “without undue delay” after first becoming aware of a data breach.
- Right to Access. Part of the expanded rights of data subjects outlined by the GDPR is the right for data subjects to obtain from the data controller confirmation as to whether or not personal data concerning them is being processed, where and for what purpose. Further, the controller shall provide a copy of the personal data, free of charge, in an electronic format. This change is a dramatic shift to data transparency and empowerment of data subjects.
- Right to be Forgotten. Also known as Data Erasure, the right to be forgotten entitles the data subject to have the data controller erase his/her personal data, cease further dissemination of the data, and potentially have third parties halt processing of the data. The conditions for erasure, as outlined in article 17, include the data no longer being relevant to original purposes for processing, or a data subjects withdrawing consent.
- Data Portability. GDPR introduces data portability – the right for a data subject to receive the personal data concerning them, which they have previously provided in a ‘commonly use and machine readable format’ and have the right to transmit that data to another controller.
- Privacy by Design. Privacy by design as a concept has existed for years now, but it is only just becoming part of a legal requirement with the GDPR. At it’s core, privacy by design calls for the inclusion of data protection from the onset of the designing of systems, rather than an addition. More specifically – ‘The controller shall..implement appropriate technical and organisational measures..in an effective way.. in order to meet the requirements of this Regulation and protect the rights of data subjects’. Article 23 calls for controllers to hold and process only the data absolutely necessary for the completion of its duties (data minimisation), as well as limiting the access to personal data to those needing to act out the processing.
Frequent Questions and Answers
- When is the GDPR coming into effect? The GDPR was approved and adopted by the EU Parliament in April 2016. The regulation will take effect after a two-year transition period and, unlike a Directive it does not require any enabling legislation to be passed by government; meaning it will be in force May 2018.
- Who does the GDPR affect? The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.
- What constitutes personal data?
Any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address.
- What is the difference between a data processor and a data controller? A controller is the entity that determines the purposes, conditions and means of the processing of personal data, while the processor is an entity which processes personal data on behalf of the controller.
- Do data processors need ‘explicit’ or ‘unambiguous’ data subject consent – and what is the difference? The conditions for consent have been strengthened, as companies will no longer be able to utilise long illegible terms and conditions full of legalese, as the request for consent must be given in an intelligible and easily accessible form, with the purpose for data processing attached to that consent – meaning it must be unambiguous. Consent must be clear and distinguishable from other matters and provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language. It must be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it. Explicit consent is required only for processing sensitive personal data – in this context, nothing short of “opt in” will suffice. However, for non-sensitive data, “unambiguous” consent will suffice.
- What about Data Subjects under the age of 16? Parental consent will be required to process the personal data of children under the age of 16 for online services; member states may legislate for a lower age of consent but this will not be below the age of 13.
- How does the GDPR affect policy surrounding data breaches? Proposed regulations surrounding data breaches primarily relate to the notification policies of companies that have been breached. Data breaches which may pose a risk to individuals must be notified to the DPA within 72 hours and to affected individuals without undue delay.