Happy Birthday GDPR
Growing calls for stronger enforcement two years on. The MadHATTERs Editorial, 28 May 2020
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The world’s toughest data protection laws turned two this week. But instead of birthday celebrations, the GDPR faces increasing calls for its much stronger enforcement. All eyes are currently on Ireland as its Data Protection Commission (DPC) finalises sanctions on ‘blockbuster’ cases involving Twitter and WhatsApp. Significance: they’re the first to need signoffs from all 27 EU data authorities, but they’re also the DPC’s first major decisions as lead regulator for the US tech giants — Twitter, Facebook and Google — whose European operations are headquartered in Dublin. These sanctions will be a litmus test of sorts, after a slow start that’s left privacy advocates frustrated with how the GDPR has yet to really show its teeth.
Two years on, the GDPR’s greatest legacy seems to be better public awareness with data protection and privacy rights. But many had hoped for more since the law’s introduction in May 2018. What’s not helping: UK’s data regulator, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) pausing some cases and being more lenient with fines due to the pandemic’s impact on businesses and their resources. No surprise that big things are expected of the DPC, with plenty more decisions expected from its investigation pipeline.
As the GDPR moves into its third year, data privacy and protection regulators can’t afford to go easy on rulebreakers. COVID-19 has brought new challenges: from contact-tracing apps to workplace surveillance tech and the advent of immunity passports, health data is becoming the new frontier for the GDPR. Regulators need to be increasingly vigilant as more and more of individuals’ health data is collected in the name of saving lives. We must be able to trust the de facto global privacy legislation standard to safeguard our data privacy rights as well.
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