Recent decisions out of the EU will impact the use of Google Analytics and similar non-European analytics services when targeting EU individuals, with the potential to put many organizations at risk of receiving GDPR fines.

At issue was the transfer

Websites go dark, complaints are filed within an hour, European Commission suffers an embarrassing data leak, and the US Commerce Secretary warns about the unintended trade impact of the law – all in the first week of the GDPR

The European Union’s far-reaching General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on 25 May amid much anticipation.  Although the date itself was seen as a watershed moment, what comes after will reveal the full impact of the law.  Even for those businesses that have declared that their GDPR compliance efforts have completed, the work of maintaining and updating their privacy and data protection framework will need to continue well after 25 May.  We have also yet to see how 28 EU member states and the Court of Justice of the European Union will interpret the law.

In the days leading up to 25 May, millions of inboxes were filled with updated privacy notices and requests for marketing consent and pop-up notices for cookies were added to websites across the globe, as many businesses contemplated if and how the new law applies to them.  Just in the first week, we are seeing glimpses of what lays ahead.  Certain American news publications decided to shut themselves off to European users on their websites, a first series of complaints were filed against US tech giants and their subsidiaries, and the European Commission, in an embarrassing turn of events, was found to have had a data leak on one of its websites,  Just five days after the law has gone into effect, Wilbur Ross, the US Commerce Secretary, published an opinion piece in the Financial Times, that warns: “EU data privacy laws are likely to create barriers to trade.” 

We take a look at the initial reactions and events that occurred in the first week following the implementation of the  GDPR, provide some insight into the GDPR’s impact on the digital economy and trade and provide, as we always do, some practical tips for how to manage privacy and cybersecurity risks in this ‘new era’.

On June 6, 2016, Johannes Caspar – the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection – announced that the Hamburg Data Protection Authority (“DPA”) fined three companies for relying on the invalidated Safe Harbor framework to transfer data from the European Union to the companies’ operations in the United States. The DPA imposed the fines on Adobe, Punica and Unilever, in the amounts of 8,000, 9,000 and 11,000 Euro, respectively.

Since the invalidation of the Safe Harbor framework by the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in October 2015, German DPAs have taken an active role in questioning cross-border data transfer mechanisms, including the validity of the Standard Contractual Clauses and the Binding Corporate Rules, neither of which the CJEU addressed in the Safe Harbor Schrems decision. As part of this effort, the Hamburg DPA made inquiries of 38 global companies that had previously relied on the Safe Harbor framework and have operations in Hamburg to determine whether the companies had updated their cross-border data transfer practices to reflect the invalidation of Safe Harbor. This inquiry has, in turn, resulted in the enforcement action against the three companies.

A number of jurisdictions around the world follow the lead from Europe in relation to data protection and impose similar restrictions on the export of personal data unless there is an “adequate level” of protection offered in the recipient jurisdiction. The EU Commission’s “US Safe Harbor” decision had permitted the transfer of personal data between Europe and the US by establishing that an adequate level of data protection was ensured by the EU-US Safe Harbor scheme.

It is being reported that the EU and the US have reached an agreement in principle on the revised cross-border data transfer framework, commonly referred to as Safe Harbor 2.0. Both sides expect further progress on the specifics in November of this year. Some of the thornier issues, however,regarding US surveillance activities, that are critical to addressing the concerns the ECJ raised in Schrems, are yet to be firmed up with verifiable compliance commitments.