A report by the lead knowledge watchdog for a lot of tech giants working in Europe reveals a major improve in privateness complaints and knowledge breach notifications for the reason that area’s up to date privateness framework got here into drive final May.
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC)’s annual report, revealed at this time, covers the interval May 25, aka the day the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) got here into drive, to December 31 2018 and reveals the DPC obtained greater than double the quantity of complaints post-GDPR vs the primary portion of 2018 previous to the brand new regime coming in: With 2,864 and 1,249 complaints obtained respectively.
That makes a complete of 4,113 complaints for full 12 months 2018 (vs simply 2,642 for 2017). Which is a 12 months on 12 months improve of 36 per cent.
But the rise pre- and post-GDPR is even larger — 56 per cent — suggesting the regulation is working as supposed by constructing momentum and assist for people to train their basic rights.

“The phenomenon that is the [GDPR] has demonstrated one thing above all else: people’s interest in and appetite for understanding and controlling use of their personal data is anything but a reflection of apathy and fatalism,” writes Helen Dixon, Ireland’s commissioner for knowledge safety.
She provides that the rise within the variety of complaints and queries to DPAs throughout the EU since May 25 demonstrates “a new level of mobilisation to action on the part of individuals to tackle what they see as misuse or failure to adequately explain what is being done with their data”.
While Europe has had on-line privateness guidelines since 1995 a weak regime of enforcement basically allowed them to be ignored for many years — and Internet corporations to seize and exploit net customers’ knowledge with out full regard and respect for European’s privateness rights.
But regulators hit the reset button final 12 months. And Ireland’s knowledge watchdog is an particularly attention-grabbing company to look at when you’re keen on assessing how GDPR is working, given what number of tech giants have chosen to put their worldwide knowledge flows underneath the Irish DPC’s supervision.
More cross-border complaints
“The role places an important duty on the DPC to safeguard the data protection rights of hundreds of millions of individuals across the EU, a duty that the GDPR requires the DPC to fulfil in cooperation with other supervisory authorities,” the DPC writes within the report, discussing its position of supervisory authority for a number of tech multinationals and acknowledging each a “greatly expanded role under the GDPR” and a “significantly increased workload”.
A breakdown of GDPR vs Data Protection Act 1998 grievance varieties over the report interval suggests complaints focused at multinational entities have leapt up underneath the brand new DP regime.
For some grievance varieties the previous guidelines resulted in simply 2 per cent of complaints being focused at multinationals vs near 1 / 4 (22 per cent) in the identical classes underneath GDPR.
It’s essentially the most marked distinction between the previous guidelines and the brand new — underlining the DPC’s expanded workload in performing as a hub (and infrequently lead supervisory company) for cross-border complaints underneath GDPR’s one-stop store mechanism.
The class with the most important proportions of complaints underneath GDPR over the report interval was entry rights (30%) — with the DPC receiving a full 582 complaints associated to folks feeling they’re not getting their due knowledge. Access rights was additionally most complained about underneath the prior knowledge guidelines over this era.
Other distinguished grievance varieties proceed to be unfair processing of information (285 GDPR complaints vs 178 underneath the DPA); disclosure (217 vs 138); and digital direct advertising and marketing (111 vs 36).

EU policymakers’ intent with GDPR is to redress the imbalance of weakly enforced rights — together with by creating new alternatives for enforcement through a regime of supersized fines. (GDPR permits for penalties as excessive as as much as 4 per cent of annual turnover, and in January the French knowledge watchdog slapped Google with a $57M GDPR penalty associated to transparency and consent — albeit nonetheless far off that theoretical most.)
Importantly, the regulation additionally launched a collective redress choice which has been adopted by some EU Member States.
This permits for third occasion organizations similar to shopper rights teams to lodge knowledge safety complaints on people’ behalf. The provision has led to various strategic complaints being filed by organized specialists since final May (together with within the case of the aforementioned Google positive) — spinning up momentum for collective shopper motion to counter rights erosion. Again that’s essential in a fancy space that continues to be troublesome for shoppers to navigate with out professional assist.
For upheld complaints the GDPR ‘nuclear option’ just isn’t fines although; it’s the flexibility for knowledge safety businesses to order knowledge controllers to cease processing knowledge.
That stays essentially the most important software within the regulatory toolbox. And relying on the result of assorted ongoing strategic GDPR complaints it may show massively important in reshaping what knowledge specialists consider are systematic privateness incursions by adtech platform giants.
And whereas well-resourced tech giants might be able to think about even very meaty monetary penalties, as only a value of doing a really profitable enterprise, data-focused enterprise fashions might be way more precarious if processors can abruptly be slapped with an order to restrict and even stop processing knowledge. (As certainly Facebook’s enterprise simply has in Germany, the place antitrust regulators have been liaising with privateness watchdogs.)
Data breach notifications additionally up
GDPR additionally shines a serious highlight on safety — requiring privateness by design and default and introducing a common requirement for swiftly reporting knowledge breaches throughout the bloc, once more with very stiff penalties for non-compliance.
On the info breach entrance, the Irish DPC says it obtained a complete of 3,687 knowledge breach notifications between May 25 and December 31 final 12 months — discovering simply 4 per cent (145 instances) didn’t meet the definition of a personal-data breach set out in GDPR. That means it recorded a complete of 3,542 legitimate knowledge safety breaches over the report interval — which it says represents a rise of 27 per cent on 2017 breach report figures.
“As in other years, the highest category of data breaches notified under the GDPR were classified as Unauthorised Disclosures and accounted for just under 85% of the total data-breach notifications received between 25 May and 31 December 2018,” it notes, including: “The majority occurred in the private sector (2,070).”
More than 4,000 knowledge breach notifications had been recorded by the watchdog for full 12 months 2018, the report additionally states.
For the sooner 2018 interval, from January 1 to May 24 2018, a DPC spokesman advised us it recorded 1198 legitimate knowledge safety breaches — making the total 12 months complete 4740.
The DPC additional reveals that it was notified of 38 private knowledge breaches involving 11 multinational expertise corporations in the course of the post-GDPR interval of 2018. Which means breaches involving tech giants.
“A substantial number of these notifications involved the unauthorised disclosure of, and unauthorised access to, personal data as a result of bugs in software supplied by data processors engaged by the organisations,” it writes, saying it opened a number of investigations in consequence (similar to following the Facebook Token breach in September 2018).
Open probes of tech giants
As of 31 December 2018, the DPC says it had 15 investigations open in relation to multinational tech corporations’ compliance with GDPR.
Below is the total checklist of the DPC’s at the moment open investigations of multinationals — together with the tech big underneath scrutiny; the origin of the inquiry; and the problems being examined:
Facebook Ireland Limited — Complaint-based inquiry: “Right of Access and Data Portability. Examining whether Facebook has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the right of access to personal data in the Facebook ‘Hive’ database and portability of “observed” private knowledge”
Facebook Ireland Limited — Complaint-based inquiry: “Lawful basis for processing in relation to Facebook’s Terms of Service and Data Policy. Examining whether Facebook has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data of individuals using the Facebook platform.”
Facebook Ireland Limited — Complaint-based inquiry: “Lawful basis for processing. Examining whether Facebook has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data in the context of behavioural analysis and targeted advertising on its platform.”
Facebook Ireland Limited — Own-volition inquiry: “Facebook September 2018 token breach. Examining whether Facebook Ireland has discharged its GDPR obligations to implement organisational and technical measures to secure and safeguard the personal data of its users.”
Facebook Ireland Limited — Own-volition inquiry: “Facebook September 2018 token breach. Examining Facebook’s compliance with the GDPR’s breach notification obligations.”
Facebook Inc. — Own-volition inquiry: “Facebook September 2018 token breach. Examining whether Facebook Inc. has discharged its GDPR obligations to implement organizational and technical measures to secure and safeguard the personal data of its users.”
Facebook Ireland Limited — Own-volition inquiry: “Commenced in response to large number of breaches notified to the DPC during the period since 25 May 2018 (separate to the token breach). Examining whether Facebook has discharged its GDPR obligations to implement organisational and technical measures to secure and safeguard the personal data of its users.”
Instagram (Facebook Ireland Limited) — Complaint-based inquiry: “Lawful basis for processing in relation to Instagram’s Terms of Use and Data Policy. Examining whether Instagram has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data of individuals using the Instagram platform.”
WhatsApp Ireland Limited — Complaint-based inquiry: “Lawful basis for processing in relation to WhatsApp’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Examining whether WhatsApp has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data of individuals using the WhatsApp platform.”
WhatsApp Ireland Limited — Own-volition inquiry: “Transparency. Examining whether WhatsApp has discharged its GDPR transparency obligations with regard to the provision of information and the transparency of that information to both users and non-users of WhatsApp’s services, including information provided to data subjects about the processing of information between WhatsApp and other Facebook companies.”
Twitter International Company — Complaint-based inquiry: “Right of Access. Examining whether Twitter has discharged its obligations in respect of the right of access to links accessed on Twitter.”
Twitter International Company — Own-volition inquiry: “Commenced in response to the large number of breaches notified to the DPC during the period since 25 May 2018. Examining whether Twitter has discharged its GDPR obligations to implement organisational and technical measures to secure and safeguard the personal data of its users.”
LinkedIn Ireland Unlimited Company — Complaint-based inquiry: “Lawful basis for processing. Examining whether LinkedIn has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data in the context of behavioural analysis and targeted advertising on its platform.”
Apple Distribution International — Complaint-based inquiry: “Lawful basis for processing. Examining whether Apple has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data in the context of behavioural analysis and targeted advertising on its platform.”
Apple Distribution International — Complaint-based inquiry: “Transparency. Examining whether Apple has discharged its GDPR transparency obligations in respect of the information contained in its privacy policy and online documents regarding the processing of personal data of users of its services.”
“The DPC’s role in supervising the data-processing operations of the numerous large data-rich multinational companies — including technology internet and social media companies — with EU headquarters located in Ireland changed immeasurably on 25 May 2018,” the watchdog acknowledges.
“For many, including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Oath [disclosure: TechSwitch is owned by Verizon Media Group; aka Oath/AOL], WhatsApp, MTCH Technology and Yelp, the DPC acts as lead supervisory authority under the GDPR OSS [one-stop shop] facility.”
The DPC notes within the report that between May 25 and December 31 2018 it obtained 136 cross-border processing complaints by means of the regulation’s OSS mechanism (i.e. which had been lodged by people with different EU knowledge safety authorities).
A breakdown of those (doubtless) tech big targeted GDPR complaints reveals a powerful give attention to consent, proper of erasure, proper of entry and the lawfulness of information processing:
Breakdown of cross-border grievance varieties obtained by the DPC underneath GDPR’s OSS mechanism
While the Irish DPC acts because the lead supervisor for a lot of excessive profile GDPR complaints which relate to how tech giants are dealing with folks’s knowledge, it’s price emphasizing that the OSS mechanism doesn’t imply Ireland is sitting in sole judgement on Silicon Valley’s giants’ rights incursions in Europe.
The mechanism permits for different DPAs to be concerned in these cross-border complaints.
And the European Data Protection Board, the physique that works with all of the EU Member States’ DPAs to assist guarantee constant utility of the regulation, can set off a dispute decision course of if a lead company considers it can not implement a involved company objection. The goal is to work towards discussion board procuring.
In a bit on “EU cooperation”, the DPC additional writes:
Our fellow EU regulators, alongside whom we sit on the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), observe the actions and outcomes of the Irish DPC intently, given that a important variety of folks in each EU member state are probably impacted by processing actions of the web corporations positioned in Ireland. EDPB exercise is intense, with month-to-month plenary conferences and a brand new system of on-line knowledge sharing in relation to cross-border processing instances rolled out between the authorities. The DPC has led on the event of EDPB steerage on preparations for Codes of Conduct underneath the GDPR and these needs to be permitted and revealed by the EDPB in Q1 of 2019. The DPC seems to be ahead to trade embracing Codes of Conduct and elevating the bar in particular person sectors when it comes to requirements of information safety and transparency. Codes of Conduct are essential as a result of they may extra comprehensively replicate the context and actuality of data-processing actions in a given sector and supply readability to those that signal as much as the requirements that should be attained along with exterior monitoring by an impartial physique. It is readability of requirements that can drive actual outcomes.
Over the reported interval the watchdog additionally reveals that it issued 23 formal requests in search of detailed data on compliance with numerous facets of the GDPR from tech giants, noting too that since May 25 it has engaged with platforms on “a broad range of issues” — citing the next examples to provide a taste of those considerations:
Google on the processing of location knowledge
Facebook on points such because the switch of private knowledge from third-party apps to Facebook and Facebook’s collaboration with exterior researchers
Microsoft on the processing of telemetry knowledge collected by its Office product
WhatsApp on issues regarding the sharing of private knowledge with different Facebook corporations
“Supervision engagement with these companies on the matters outlined is ongoing,” the DPC provides of those points.
Adtech sector “must comply” with GDPR 
Talking of ongoing motion, a GDPR grievance associated to the safety of private knowledge that’s systematically processed to energy behavioral promoting is one other open grievance on the DPC’s desk.
The strategic grievance was filed by various people in a number of EU nations (together with Ireland) final fall. Since then the people behind the complaints have continued to submit and publish proof they argue bolsters their case towards the behavioral advert focusing on trade (principally Google and the IAB which set the spec concerned within the real-time bidding (RTB) system).
The Irish DPC makes reference to this RTB grievance within the annual report, giving the adtech trade what quantities to a written warning that whereas the promoting ecosystem is “complex”, with a number of events concerned in “high-speed, voluminous transactions” associated to bidding for advert area and serving advert content material “the protection of personal data is a prerequisite to the processing of any personal data within this ecosystem and ultimately the sector must comply with the standards set down by the GDPR”.
The watchdog additionally reviews that it has engaged with “several stakeholders, including publishers and data brokers on one side, and privacy advocates and affected individuals on the other”, vis-a-vis the RTB grievance, and says it can proceed prioritizing its scrutiny of the sector in 2019 — “in cooperation with its counterparts at EU level so as to ensure a consistent approach across all EU member states”.
It goes on to say that a few of its 15 open investigations into tech giants will each conclude this 12 months and “contribute to answering some of the questions relating to this complex area”. So, tl;dr, watch this area.
Responding to the DPC’s feedback on the RTB grievance, Dr Johnny Ryan, chief coverage and industrial relations officer of personal browser Brave — and in addition one of many complainants — advised us they anticipate the DPC to behave “urgently”.
“We have brought our complaint before the DPC and other European regulators because there is a dire need to fix adtech so that it’s works safely,” he advised TechSwitch. “The DPC itself recognizes that online advertising is a priority. The IAB and Google online ‘ad auction’ system enables companies to broadcast what every single person online reads, watches, and listens to online to countless parties. There is no control over what happens to these data. The evidence that we have submitted to the DPC shows that this occurs hundreds of billions of times a day.”
“In view of the upcoming European elections, it is particularly troubling that the IAB and Google’s systems permit voters to be profiled in this way,” he added. “Clearly, this infringes the security and integrity principles of the GDPR, and we expect the DPC to act urgently.”
The IAB has beforehand rejected the complaints as “false”, arguing any safety danger is “theoretical”; whereas Google has mentioned it has insurance policies in place to ban advertisers from focusing on delicate classes of information. But the RTB grievance itself pivots on GDPR’s safety necessities which demand that non-public knowledge be processed in a fashion that “ensures appropriate security”, together with “protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss”.
So the safety of the RTB system is the core subject which the Irish DPC, together with businesses within the UK and Poland, must grapple with as a precedence this 12 months.
The complainants have additionally mentioned they intend to file further complaints in additional markets throughout Europe, so extra DPAs are prone to be part of the scrutiny of RTB, as involved supervisory businesses, which may improve stress on the Irish DPC to behave.
Schrems II vs Facebook 
The watchdog’s report additionally contains an replace on long-running litigation filed by European privateness campaigner Max Schrems regarding an information switch mechanism often known as customary contractual clauses (SCCs) — and initially solely focused at Facebook’s use of the mechanism.
The DPC determined to refer Schrems’ authentic problem to the Irish courts — which have since widened the motion by referring a sequence of authorized questions as much as the EU’s high courtroom with (now) potential implications for the legality of the EU’s ‘flagship’ Privacy Shield knowledge switch mechanism.
That was negotiated following the demise of its predecessor Safe Harbor, in 2015, additionally through a Schrems authorized problem, occurring to launch in August 2016 — regardless of ongoing considerations from knowledge specialists. Privacy Shield is now utilized by near 4,500 corporations to authorize transfers of EU customers’ private knowledge to the US.
So whereas Schrems’ grievance about SCCs (generally additionally referred to as “model contract clauses”) was focused at Facebook’s use of them the litigation may find yourself having main implications for very many extra corporations if Privacy Shield itself comes unstuck.
More not too long ago Facebook has sought to dam the Irish judges’ referral of authorized inquiries to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) — profitable go away to attraction final summer season (although judges didn’t keep the referral in the intervening time).
In its report the DPC notes that the substantive listening to of Facebook’s attraction occurred over January 21, 22 and 23 earlier than a 5 decide Supreme Court panel.
“Oral arguments were made on behalf of Facebook, the DPC, the U.S. Government and Mr Schrems,” it writes. “Some of the central questions arising from the attraction embody the next: can the Supreme Court revisit the information discovered by the High Court regarding US regulation? (This arises from allegations by Facebook and the US Government that the High Court judgment, which underpins the reference made to the CJEU, accommodates numerous factual errors regarding US regulation).
“If the Supreme Court considers that it may do so, further questions will then arise for the Court as to whether there are in fact errors in the judgment and if so, whether and how these should be addressed.”
“At the time of going to print there is no indication as to when the Supreme Court judgment will be delivered,” it provides. “In the meantime, the High Court’s reference to the CJEU remains valid and is pending before the CJEU.”

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