EU privacy law heralds new era in online data protection

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation, which came into effect on May 25, updates the bloc's rules on data privacy for big data era. (Getty)
Updated 25 May 2018
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EU privacy law heralds new era in online data protection

  • Extensive new privacy regulations halied by privacy advocates worldwide
  • But critics say rules create a burden for small businesses, with advertisers and publishers impacted

BRUSSELS: New European privacy regulations that went into effect on Friday will force companies to be more attentive to how they handle customer data, while bringing consumers both new ways to control their data and tougher enforcement of existing privacy rights.
The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the bloc’s patchwork of rules dating back to 1995 and heralds an era where breaking privacy laws can fetch fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue or €20 million ($23.48 million), whichever is higher, as opposed to a few hundred thousand euros.
Many privacy advocates around the world have hailed the new law as a model for personal data protection in the Internet era and called on other countries to follow the European model.
Critics, though, say the new rules are overly burdensome, especially for small businesses, while advertisers and publishers worry it will make it harder for them to find customers.
The GDPR clarifies and strengthens existing individual privacy rights, such as the right to have one’s data erased and the right to ask a company for a copy of one’s data.
But it also includes entirely new mandates, such as the right to transfer one’s data from one service provider to another and the right to restrict companies from using personal data.
“If you compare the GDPR with the data protection directive you can really compare it with a piece of software upgrading from 1.0 to 2.0,” said Patrick Van Eecke, partner at law firm DLA Piper.
“It’s a gradual and not a revolutionary kind of thing ... However for many companies it was a huge wakeup call because they never did their homework. They never took the data protection directive seriously.”
Activists are already planning to leverage the right to access one’s data to turn the tables on large Internet platforms whose business model relies on processing people’s personal information.
That means companies are having to put in place processes for dealing with such requests and educating their workforce because any non-compliance could lead to stiff sanctions.
Studies suggest that many companies are not ready for the new rules.
The International Association of Privacy Professionals found that only 40 percent of companies affected by the GDPR expected to be fully compliant by yesterday’s deadline.
It is unclear how many provisions of GDPR will be interpreted and enforced. A patchwork of European regulatory authorities, many of whom say they are under-funded, will oversee the new law, with a central body to resolve conflicts.
One key provision of GDPR, the right to data portability, is causing particular confusion.
Lawyers and experts say it is not clear how far the right for individuals to move their data from one service provider to another will stretch.
“I think the data portability rights are pretty significant and are going to take a while for people to figure out what the bounds of them are and how to go about complying with them,” said David Hoffman, Director of Security Policy and Global Privacy Officer at Intel.
For example, music streaming services like Spotify create playlists for users based on their music preferences. While a user seeking to exercise the data portability right would be able to move playlists he or she created, the situation becomes fuzzy if the playlists are created by the streaming service using algorithms.
EU data protection authorities said individuals should be able to transfer data provided by them but not “derived data” created by the service provider such as algorithmic results.
Tanguy Van Overstraeten of Linklaters said the data portability right could raise issues of intellectual property.
“It’s not obvious that you can necessarily migrate the data from your system to somebody else’s system,” he said.
On the business side, companies are rushing to renegotiate contracts with suppliers and service providers because GDPR increases their liability if something goes wrong.
Under the current rules it is generally the company that determines the purposes of data collection that is directly liable for any breaches.
GDPR changes that, and data processors which only process or store the data on behalf of their clients, for example cloud computing providers, will be directly liable for sanctions and could face lawsuits from individuals, and that needs to be reflected in contracts.
Companies can have hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of agreements which need to be revisited to ensure they comply with GDPR.
“After 20 years of data protection legislation in place, it’s only now with the GDPR they (companies) start to think about ‘what’s my role in the whole story? Am I a data controller or data processor?’” Van Eecke said.


Russia’s RDIF to boost investment deals in Saudi Arabia

Updated 17 January 2019
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Russia’s RDIF to boost investment deals in Saudi Arabia

  • Fund's CEO Kirill Dmitriev leads a delegation of more than 20 Russian business figures to the Kingdom
  • The delegation discussed projects in oil refining, petrochemical, gas chemical and oilfield services

RIYADH: Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF said on Wednesday it would significantly boost its investments deals with Saudi Arabia in 2019.

The fund’s CEO Kirill Dmitriev led a delegation of more than 20 Russian business figures to the Kingdom to discuss new projects.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih met Dmitriev in Riyadh and expressed his happiness on the progress they made in the talks and the cooperation between the two countries. 

“Its not only commercial cooperation, but we are also working on scientific research, and we have opened a research center in Moscow University,” Al-Falih said.

The minister said the Russian delegation will also meet officials from Saudi Basic Industries Corporation SABIC and mining company Ma’aden among other companies during their three day visit to the Kingdom.

The delegation discussed projects in oil refining, petrochemical, gas chemical and oilfield services sectors, a Russian Direct Investment Fund statement said.

Al-Falih added that the Russian side has started a rubber plant project in Al-Jubail with Total and Novomet.

RDIF already has a $10 billion investment partnership with the Saudi Public Investment Fun (PIF), with more than $2 billion already invested in projects.

“We extend our cooperation not only on oil cuts but to cooperate in oil services, technology, LG and petrochemicals,” Dmitriev said. “We believe Saudi Aramco can be one of the greatest partners of Russia.”

The CEO said they were continuing to cooperate with PIF in Saudi Arabia through a number of energy investments.

Russian companies are also keen to invest in the Kingdom’s planned $500 billion mega-city NEOM.

“We have companies that have interest to invest in NEOM, we would like to build a port in NEOM, it can be a big port,” Dmitriev said.