Tag Archives: Brexit

Data Protection, Brexit and the Charter of Fundamental Rights

On the face of it the Irish Supreme Court’s decision in Minister for Justice v O’Conner [2018] IESC 3 has no place on a blog focused on information law matters as they apply in Scotland and the wider United Kingdom.  The case involves a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the United Kingdom and the surrender of the individual to the United Kingdom under that EAW.  The Irish Supreme Court has granted leave to Mr. O’Connor to appeal to it; this is so that a reference can to be made to the Court of Justice of the European Union.  The context of that reference is the giving of notice by the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union and that as a consequence the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.

It is not obvious what this has to do with information law at all; however, it might well have an impact upon the flow of personal data between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The UK Government has identified a number of ‘red lines’ in its negotiations with the European Union; one of those red lines is that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union will cease to apply to the United Kingdom when it leaves the European Union.  All of the public statements which have been made by Ministers is suggestive that the Charter will not be incorporated into UK domestic law and it will not agree to a treaty with the European Union which continues its application.  Whether or not that is the case at the end of the day remains to be seen; however, it is creating uncertainty.

My initial thoughts on this case are that it could be significant beyond the question of extradition under the EAW scheme.  From a reading of the judgment of the Irish Supreme Court, it is clear that there are fundamental issues of European Union Law to be addressed in this reference.

It is a consequence of the operation of Article 50 that at the end of the two year period provided for therein that the treaties cease to apply to the leaving State (subject to an agreement to extend the Article 50 period or any agreement between the EU and the leaving state which continues the application of EU law).  At its most basic, it means that European Union Law ceases to apply to the leaving state.  This is a very real problem and is the reason for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which has its aim to ensure that the domestic statute book works and certainty is given as to what the law in the United Kingdom is.

So, what precisely does this have to do with information law?  Articles 44-50 of the General Data Protection Regulation deal with transfers to third countries; a third country being a country which is outside of the Union.  Upon Brexit the United Kingdom will be outside of the Union and the flow of personal data from controllers and processors inside of the Union to controllers and processors in the United Kingdom will need to be in compliance with Articles 44-50 of the GDPR.

What most people in the data protection world are hoping for is that the United Kingdom will get a favourable adequacy decision from the European Commission; which will enable the free flow of personal data between the Union and the United Kingdom on much the same basis as it is presently while the United Kingdom remains part of the European Union.  However, many are sceptical as to whether the United Kingdom will be successful in gaining such a decision; it may not be enough simply to show that the GDPR still forms part of UK domestic law, but that is a topic for another blog post.

What appears to be the underlying issue in the reference being made by the Irish Supreme Court, is whether a person can be surrendered to the United Kingdom under a EAW while there is uncertainty about what the arrangements will be after Brexit in terms of that citizen’s rights under European Union Law.  The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union features a number of times in the judgment and seems to be one of the areas of EU law that is at issue (and Article 8 of the Charter guarantees rights to the protection of personal data).

It seems to me that if the opinion issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union in respect of the reference made is in any way supportive of Mr. O’Connor’s position, it could raise questions not only about personal data transferred between the Union and the UK post-Brexit; but also about personal data which is transferred pre-Brexit and which will continue to be processed in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

This reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union is certainly one that data protection professionals ought to be keeping an eye on; it has the potential to cause severe headaches for controllers and processors who rely on personal data coming in from the other 27 members of the European Union.

Alistair Sloan

If you would like advice or assistance with a privacy or data protection matter, or any other information law concern then contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or send him an E-mail.

PECR: The forgotten relative

Much of the focus in relation to data protection and privacy law is on implementation of the Genera Data Protection Regulation, which becomes applicable from 25 May 2018.  However, many of the discussions that are taking place in respect of GDPR implementation are forgetting the GDPR’s older cousin:  the snappily named Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications).  This Directive from the European Union dating from 2002 was implemented in the United Kingdom through the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”).

 The Directive on privacy and electronic communications is concerned with the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector and is of importance to telecommunications providers, Internet Service Providers and any person or organisation who conducts direct marketing by electronic means; however, this blog post is concerned only with direct marketing and is a follow-up to my recent blog post on whether consent is required under the GDPR.

The GDPR might be the big thing at the moment, but it is important not to consider it in isolation.  When thinking about GDPR implementation it is necessary to take a holistic view and think about how it interacts with other laws because these other laws don’t stop having effect just because of the GDPR.  Therefore, it is essential to consider how these other laws affect your GDPR implementation.

The rules on direct marketing by electronic means are relatively simple and straightforward, but this does not stop unlawful behaviour from taking place on an industrial scale.  Rarely does a month go past without the Information Commissioner’s Office publishing information on enforcement action it has taken against businesses arising out of failing to comply with PECR, especially since the law changed to lower the legal threshold for Monetary Penalty Notices in relation to PECR infringements.

Electronic Mail
Electronic Mail includes E-mail and SMS text messaging.  The general rule for direct marketing by electronic mail is that you need consent, as defined by the 1995 Data Protection Directive.  This means that you must have a freely given, specific and informed indication that the person to whom you are directing the marketing wants to receive such marketing.

There is an exception to this which is referred to as the “soft opt-in”.  This applies where you have obtained a person’s personal data “in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service” to them.  You can then send direct marketing to this person, without first gaining their express consent, where you are marketing your own similar products or services.  The data subject must be “given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected”.

Each direct marketing communication that is sent must include a simple means of opt-out of further direct marketing content (and this must be free of charge, except for the costs of transmission of the opt-out).

Telephone:  Automated calls
The rules for direct marketing by telephone are split into automated and unsolicited live telesales calls.  In the case of automated calls with recorded information played when the phone line being called is answered, the subscriber (i.e. the person who has contracted with the telephone service provider) must have notified the caller (or the person instigating the call where the caller is a third party acting on behalf of the instigator) that, for the time being, they consent to receiving such calls.  Again, this requires there to be a freely given, specific and informed indication.  Consent can be withdrawn.

Telephone:  Unsolicited live telesales calls
You do not require consent to make such calls; however, you must not make such calls where the subscriber has notified you that they do not wish to receive such calls, or if the number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).  You can call numbers registered with the TPS where the subscriber has consented to receiving calls from you, notwithstanding that the number is registered with the TPS.  Consent can, as always, be withdrawn at a later date.

Fax
Yes, it is still a thing and some people (and indeed whole sectors) still use fax machines.  However, as it is more or less an obsolete technology all I will say on the matter is that PECR regulates the use of fax for direct marketing and the relevant parts are Regulations 20 and 25.

That is a very brief run through of the relevant law as it stands today.  However, a couple of points to note in closing:  Firstly, the EU is currently working on a replacement to the current Directive.  It had been anticipated that the new E-Privacy Regulation would be implemented alongside the GDPR, but work started on it too late and so it won’t.  Whether it will be finalised in and in force prior to Brexit is something that we will need to wait and see.  Secondly, depending on what happens with the Brexit negotiations it may still end up being part of UK law even if it comes into force after the UK leaves the EU.  Thirdly, there is likely to be some temporary adjustments to PECR from 25 May 2018, that is because PECR adopts a lot of definitions from the Data Protection Act 1998 and the 1995 Data Protection Directive (both of which will be repealed on 25 May 2018).  Finally, the domestic Regulations were made under the European Communities Act 1972; therefore the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill may well have some impact upon them.

Alistair Sloan

If you would like advice or assistance with a privacy or data protection matter, or any other information law concern then contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or send him an E-mail.

Information Law Review of 2017

2018 is now upon us and this is a big year in the field of Information Law, the General Data Protection Regulation will at last become applicable in the United Kingdom.  If you are a data controller or a data processor, your preparations for the GDPR should be well under way; however, if you have not yet started to prepare for these regulations then it is not yet too late.  The lesser known brother of the GDPR also kicks in this year, the Law Enforcement Directive, which governs the processing of personal data by law enforcement agencies.

However, before I get stuck into what is coming this year in the field of Information law, I want to take a moment to look back at some of the things that happened in 2017.  At the tail end of 2017 the High Court in England issued its anticipated judgment in the case of Various Claimants v WM Morrisons Supermarket PLC  [2017] EWHC 3113 (QB)This represented a significant development in the data protection field and opens up a much wider range of circumstances in which data subjects can sue a data controller under Section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

In October 2017, the Irish High Court made a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union at the request of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner seeking a preliminary ruling on “Privacy Shield”, the successor to the Safe Harbour rules which had previously been held to be unlawful by the European Court.

In September 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision concerning the application of the right to a private and family life contained in Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights to the monitoring of a person’s communications by their employer.

Also in September 2017, the UK Government published its Data Protection Bill which will replace the Data Protection Act 1998, extends GDPR standards to areas not within the competence of the European Union and implements the Law Enforcement Directive, among other things.

Now looking ahead to 2018, it is possible that we might see a decision from the English Court of Appeal in the Morrisons case referred to above, the judge having granted permission to Morrisons to appeal his findings in relation to vicarious liability.  We may also see claims for compensation being made based upon the Morrisons decision.

In Scotland, we will be expecting to see some more progress made by the Scottish Parliament in its consideration of the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill.  I provided written evidence to the Education and Skills Committee on this Bill last year.  The Committee has had some difficulty in completing its Stage 1 consideration of the Bill and the previous deadline of 22 November 2017 for completion of Stage 1 was removed by the Scottish Parliament.

It is also possible that we will see the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-Legislative scrutiny Committee begin to undertake a post-legislative inquiry into the operation of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (or announce that such an inquiry will take place in due course).  If such an inquiry does take place, it will be the first time that there will have been a complete review of the Scottish FOI Act and how it is operating.

Staying on the subject of Freedom of Information in Scotland, we are likely to see the outcome of the Scottish Information Commissioner’s formal intervention in respect of the Scottish Government’s compliance with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  We are also likley to see an Order being made under Section 5 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 designating Registered Social Landlords as scottish public authorities with effect from 1st April 2019.

By the end of 2018 we should also hopefully have a much better idea as to what the UK’s relationship with the European Union will be after it leaves, and in particular what impact this will have on data protection and privacy law in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

There will no doubt be a raft of new court decisions in relation to both Privacy/Data Protection and Freedom of Information over the course of the next 12 months and I will attempt to address the most important and unusual decisions here on the Information Law Blog from Inksters Solicitors.

Alistair Sloan

If you would like advice or assistance with Privacy and Data Protection matters (including GDPR preparation) or with UK and Scottish Freedom of Information requests contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or you can E-mail him.