Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

26 EU states not ready for data law

The vast majority of EU states appear unprepared for new EU-wide data protection and privacy rules set for launch end of May.

Only Austria and Germany have so far implemented national laws that lay the ground work for the EU general data protection regulation (GDPR), a wide-reaching overhaul of a two-decade old directive.

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"If some member states lag behind and do not amend their legislation on time it might cause some problems for the overall functioning of the GDPR across Europe," EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova told reporters on Wednesday (24 January).

While the regulation is automatically binding as of 25 May, national procedural rules are needed, among other things, to equip data protection authorities with means to ensure people's privacy is protected.

States will also have to repeal and amend some existing laws and set up national data protection authorities. Jourova said this also entails making sure that data protection authorities are independent and financed enough to carry out their duties.

"I can tell you that all 26 [member states] are in a big rush now," she said.

Karolina Majzesowicz, a data protection expert at the European Commission, told this website that such missing national rules "could slow down the take-off of the harmonious application and the coherent application of the data protection rules throughout the EU."

The regulation offers a single set of rules that are required to be applied throughout all EU states and by any company, no matter where it is based, that processes the data of EU citizens and residents.

Breaking the law could incur fines up to €20 million or 4 percent of a company's worldwide annual turnover.

Some of the EU's 24,000 smaller businesses will be exempt from the rules but concerns are mounting that many others are simply ill-prepared to meet all the conditions. Those that process people's data will be required to hire a data protection officer, for instance.

Meanwhile, some governments are more advanced than others when it comes to meeting their 25 May deadline.

An EU commission document from early December says Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Malta, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Poland, Sweden, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom have either submitted or will soon submit draft laws to their respective parliaments.

EU states and companies have been given two years to make sure that regulation goes off without a hitch following its 2016 adoption.

German Green MEP Jan Philip Albrecht, who steered the bill through the European parliament, warned the regulation would be applied not matter what and will be enforced.

"Allowing business to prepare compliance for two years after the GDPR came into force was quite nice of the EU. There were also suggestions to make it six months," he said at the CPDP international data protection conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

Not everyone is convinced of the regulation's impact on shoring up data protection standards, however.

Christian Gemmin from the University Kassel in Germany said some of the opening clauses in the regulation run the risk of lowering the level of data protection.

Speaking at a panel at the CPDP, he noted that options in the regulation "may lead to a complex and intransparent situation."

Data privacy chiefs wary of lagging EU states

EU data protection chiefs are worried member states won't be ready when a new wide-sweeping general data protection regulation goes live on 25 May. National laws still need to be passed to ensure data authorities can enforce the regulation EU-wide.

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