Brussels has its big warhorse in privacy regulations against the might of the US digital giants. Senior public officials and national politicians often talk about the great safeguards established by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in 2018. Part of their mission, and the reason why the EU expected tech companies to do what they feared, is heavy fines. that it collects those who miss it, with sanctions of up to 4% of global annual turnover for the most serious violations. But five years later, these exemplary fines are not forthcoming, and Brussels is set to take action on the matter.
The cause of the jam is no secret to privacy specialists. The regulation tasked each country’s agencies with the mission of investigating technology companies established in their territory. In practice, this leaves it up to national governments to decide how intensively to investigate privacy breaches affecting citizens across the continent. Brussels suspects that some are not as efficient as they should be in this work and motivates the existence of traffic jams that benefit multinational companies in their territory, which is why it has decided to tie them up and brief and supervise their work.
“The European Commission asks all national data protection supervisory authorities to share an overview of large-scale cross-border investigations with the Commission every two months and on a strictly confidential basis,” warns a statement released by the community’s executive body this week. . Each must send bimonthly their progress in investigations affecting the citizens of different territories and justify the delays.
No specific country was mentioned in the record, but all eyes were on an island: Ireland. In and around Dublin are the European headquarters of companies such as Meta (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Airbnb, IBM, Oracle or Intel. “All these companies are in Ireland for tax purposes and what they are saying to the Irish government is: We are going to be together. The Irish government does not give the Irish Data Protection Authority enough resources and this slows down the whole process,” explains Borja Adsuara, a specialist data protection lawyer.
All these companies are in Ireland on the tax issue and what they are saying to the Irish government is “we will agree”.
The decision by Brussels to begin overseeing the work of all national privacy authorities also follows an outcry over the Irish agency’s actions, which took nearly five years to decide how Facebook and Instagram collect consent. Personal advertising by users is illegal. The ruling, one of the most far-reaching in European data protection because of the cascading effect it could have on the practices of other companies, comes as a result of a lawsuit against Facebook filed on the day the regulation took effect in May. 25,400 million in 2018 (which includes an order for Meta to change its methods within three months) was published on January 4 this year.
Days before the ruling, Ireland’s slow pace was protested by the number two of the agency, which co-ordinates each country’s protection authorities. “It affects the reliability of the whole system,” said Leonardo Cervera, director of the European Data Protection Supervisor, in an interview with elDiario.es. “Perhaps we shouldn’t be looking at the agency’s colleagues so much as the Irish government not investing enough in the powers that are key to making the regulation work,” he agreed.
Ireland wanted less fines for Facebook
The body, led by Cervera, was forced to intervene in the ruling against Facebook. The reason is that several national agencies were unhappy with the initial draft that Ireland sent them, both in terms of substance and the amount it would cost Meta over five years for not complying with community regulations. The European watchdog ordered Dublin to determine the amount and severity of the sanction.
As revealed by the original complainant, who is none other than young Austrian lawyer Max Schrems, the Irish agency’s plans were to fine Meta between €28 and €36 million. “That’s less than 10% of what the European watchdog finally found,” Schrems stressed, noting that Ireland will pay the fine, not him as the complainant, Noyb (an activist-founded privacy NGO) or the European watchdog. “The sanction will go to Ireland, a state that supported Meta and delayed enforcement for more than four years. This case will probably be appealed by Meta, which means more costs for Noibi,” he warned.
Indeed, Meta announced shortly after that he will appeal the decision in court. “We strongly believe that our approach respects the GDPR, so we are disappointed by these decisions and intend to appeal both the decisions and the fines,” the multinational said. He also wanted to emphasize that the decision outlawed the legal basis for Facebook and Instagram’s personalized ads, not the ads themselves.
Before that, big cases lay dormant for years. We should now see an acceleration in investigations and enforcement, and it will become clear where the European Commission needs to take action.
The standoff surrounding the Irish government has ended, prompting a formal complaint from the Irish Civil Liberties Council, an NGO in the country, before which Brussels has decided to take action. “The new commitment from the European Commission should transform the application of European legislation on digital and data issues. Previously, large cases lay dormant for years. We should now see an acceleration of investigations and enforcement, and it will become clear where the European Commission needs to take swift action against member states that do not apply the GDPR. This is the beginning of a real application of the regulation and a serious European application against large technology companies”, said the director of the non-governmental organization.
Adzuara agrees with the interpretation. “Brussels shows its paw by having national agencies step up to protect their citizens when the lead authority, which is usually always Ireland, does nothing,” he concludes.
Source: El Diario