Written By Joshita Pai
The European Parliament adopted the new Rules on Data Protection on the 14th of April, 2016. The new Regulation replaces the General Rules on Data Protection, 1995 and the 2008 framework decision on cross-border data processing in police and judicial cooperation within the EU. In January 2012, the EU Commission first presented a package of proposals in order to update and modernize the present EU legal framework which was accepted subsequently by the Council in December 2015. The new data protection package consists of a general regulation on personal data processing in the EU and a directive on data processed by the police and judicial authorities.
Highlights of the Regulation
The regulation, establishes a stronger regime for protection of personal data by giving more control to the users in the digital market. It enshrines provisions on the much awaited right to be forgotten in the virtual space,[i] provisions on the need for clear and affirmative consent and the right of an individual to be informed. Profiling of an individual by collecting a person’s data is often presented in the name of customized service and commercial interest of the company. The new regulation allows for a right to object against profiling unless it is necessary for legal enforcement purposes or for scientific research. The Directive also envisages provisions on data portability which will enable users to shift from one service provider to another, without losing the data accumulated in the use of the former. Aside from vesting a bundle of rights in the hands of the users, the regulation makes way for an array of provisions for companies to abide by. The crucial provisions affecting business companies include:
- Sanctions on companies that breach data transfer of upto 4% of annual profits: This provision in the regulation holds heavy bearing since its application extends to companies established outside the European Union. organisations will additionally be required to carry out data protection impact assessmentswhere their plans to process personal data are “likely to result in a high risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals”.
- Provision for appointing a data protection officer if the company engages in processing of sensitive data: For businesses in which the “core activities” consist of processing operations that “by virtue of their nature, their scope and/or their purposes, require regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale”; or if it involves processing sensitive data on a large scale, the new Directive recommends the mandatory appointment of a DPO.
- The introduction of the new one-stop-shop concept in the Regulation: The Regulation states there will be a single supervisory authority who will be engaging with business houses, instead of one authority in each member state. The ‘one-stop-shop’ will streamline cooperation between the data protection authorities on issues with implications for all of Europe.
The Impact of the new EU Regulation on India
The cross-border flow of data from the EU states to other nations has been contentious, visibly so after the Schrems decision which rendered the EU-US safe harbour provision inadequate. The decision called for a new set of guidelines which resulted in the creation of the EU-US privacy shield.
The EU framework of 1995 as well as the enhanced edition of the Regulation, prescribes a mandatory adequacy decision to determine whether the country in question adequately protects personal data. The new Regulation, dedicates a chapter on transfer of personal data to third party countries, and India’s interest in the Directive lies here. It provides that:
“A transfer of personal data to a third country or an international organization may take place where the Commission has decided that the third country, or a territory or one or more specified sectors within that third country, or the international organization in question ensures an adequate level of protection.”
The European Commission in 2015 produced a report on Data Protection in India to assess the measures and standards adopted for protection of data in India. The report highlighted the lacunae in Indian laws pertaining to personal data. According to a recent survey by NASSCOM-DSCI, there is an opportunity loss of USD 2.0 billion – 2.5 billion owing to data transfer related issues. The report notes that EU clients are hesitant to offshore work to Indian companies because of the dearth of data protection standards in India. With particular regard to data protection, institutionalizing a regulatory regime in India has become a herculean task with no comprehensive legislation on data protection in force. Statutory attempts to this effect have either been dissipated across the arena or have not been effectively executed so far. The penalty of a 4% of annual turnover of a company on account of data breach is one of the outstanding features of the new Regulation and pitching this against the backdrop of a staggered regime on data protection in India indicates a host of repercussions.
Joshita Pai was a Fellow at the Centre for Communication Governance (2015-2016)