UK data laws are adequate. For now

The EU Commission has issued draft decisions that UK data laws are adequate for data transfers to continue. Perhaps the only surprise was that it took the Commission so long to issue these draft decisions. After all, the UK has had data protection laws longer than the EU. The latest iteration, GDPR, became enforceable in 2018 in the UK just as it did in the other EU member states. And the EU Withdrawal Act preserved its effect in the UK. All part of the political fun and games in the Brexit negotiations.

This is a welcome step, embraced by UK government but it is not over yet. The decisions will now come for scrutiny by the European Data Protection Board, representatives from the member states and the EU Parliament. Max Schrems is also waiting in the wings. Remember, he’s the person who challenged both Safe Harbour and Privacy Shield. The European Court of Justice annulled these decisions on the basis they did not provide adequate protection for EU data transfers to the USA because of their snooping laws. Well, guess what? The UK has broad snooping laws too. Schrems has indicated he will review the decisions in more detail. It seems a challenge before the ECJ is not far away. Even if it survives all this, the EU Commission has said it will review the decisions in 4 years time – recognising the potential for the UK to take divergent views on data protection.

Where does that leave businesses?

These decisions mean there shouldn’t be a hard stop at the end of June – the last date under the Brexit deal. So, data transfers to and from the UK & EU can continue for now.

Given the likelihood these decisions will be challenged and the possibility they will be annulled, businesses should consider using the model clauses for their data transfers.

The difficulty is that the model clauses are about to change. The EU Commission has published four new sets of Standard Commercial Clauses. And the UK has indicated it will publish its own too.

So much for certainty and harmonisation!

If you need advice, contact me or +44 (0) 20 7611 2338.


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