By Sam Pfeifle
Publications Director

It was clear almost immediately here in Warsaw for the 35th Annual Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners that the collected DPAs intended to show a united front and that they mean business. As part of his keynote speech kicking off the open part of the conference, Polish Minister of Administration and Digitization Michel Boni said, “We need regulations. Hard regulations. In Europe, we have a discussion pending—we have to make sure it is a strong law to harmonize the laws of all the states rather than a directive.”

This sentiment was echoed by Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the executive committee of the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. “Even more than before,” he said later in the day, “we stand ready to work together to tackle contraventions with our respective legislation and ensure the best possible protection of our citizens. The only way to maintain a high level of protection is for data protection authorities to cooperate closely. We will actively work together in selecting targets for cross-border investigations … If companies break our laws, they should be ready to deal with an international and cooperative response.”

Michel Boni

It should not be surprising, then, that one of the resolutions to come out of the conference’s closed session is “to further encourage efforts to bring about more effective coordination of cross-border investigation and enforcement.” Perhaps the most practical part of the resolution is a mandate for the International Enforcement Coordination Group to develop a common approach to cross-border case handling and enforcement coordination, hopefully to be adopted at next year’s conference.

However, that major resolution is just one of nine the collected DPAs have issued today, the most resolutions to ever come out of the conference in a single year.

In light of the worldwide response to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. surveillance and data-collection efforts, it should perhaps also not be surprising that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) activities were top of mind as well at the conference. Kohnstamm cited Snowden as a key impetus behind the resolution, calling for “anchoring data protection and privacy protection in international law.”

The resolution calls upon governments to “advocate the adoption of an additional protocol to Article 17 of the (UN’s) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which should be based on the standards that have been developed and endorsed by the International Conference and the provisions in General Comment No. 16 to the Covenant in order to create globally applicable standards for data protection and the protection of privacy in accordance with the rule of law.”

Notably, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission abstained from voting on this resolution.

It was clear that many worldwide DPAs are truly upset about what they’ve learned from Edward Snowden and the journalists who’ve worked to report what he knows.

“Let me be clear,” said Kohnstamm, “when it comes to surveillance, the non-Americans do not like to be discriminated against. The statement from Barack Obama, ‘Do not worry, we’re not surveilling American citizens,’ was not very well received in the rest of the world.”

“I have to say,” Poland’s Boni echoed, “that (the NSA’s) activities are unacceptable from the point of view of protecting civil freedoms. Safety cannot be achieved by violating the feeling of freedom.”

However, the declaration on which Kohnstamm placed the most emphasis, and the one at the top of the list released by the conference, involves what the DPAs have termed the “appification” of society.

Noting that there are now some six million mobile applications available, with another 30,000 currently being released every day, Kohnstamm said, “we should be careful with the amount of personal data they collect. It is essential that users are and will remain in charge of their own data. They should be able to decide what information to share with whom and for what purposes, and they should not be surprised by hidden features of the app that allow for secret transmissions of data.”

In fact, he emphasized particularly that “surprise minimization” is a major focus for global DPAs going forward.

He also made it clear that it isn’t only app developers who will be held accountable. “Providers of platforms are in the first place responsible for their platforms, of course,” he said. “Although they do offer general privacy settings for mobile devices, these are insufficiently granular … Enforceable self-regulation programs should be an essential part of the industry.

“In the coming year, we will seek to engage with the industry to make sure the essentials of data protection (are) put into their apps,” Kohnstamm continued. “We don’t want to spoil the fun, but misuse of data has to be prevented. And rest assured that if a soft approach will not result in effective privacy, then data protection officers stand ready to join in enforcement actions as we have done before.”

Both mobile and desktop developers should pay attention, particularly, to how they use tracking. In another resolution on tracking and privacy, the collected commissioners made it clear—with only Slovenia and France abstaining—that tracking must be done with purpose limitation, only with consent and control by the user and without the use of “invisible tracking elements.”

Further, the resolution explicitly calls for organizations to “refrain from deriving a set of information elements (fingerprint) in order to uniquely identify and track users for purposes other than security/fraud prevention or network management.”

They also called for an effective Do-Not-Track standard. (You can find a full list of the resolutions here.)

Finally, it is also notable that the conference has conferred “member” status on three new data protection authorities: Mauritius’ Data Protection Office, Kosovo’s National Agency for Personal Data Protection and Buenos Aires’ Ombudsman’s Office.

To celebrate, Mauritius will play host to next year’s International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners on September 22, 2014.

Look for more coverage of the ICDPPC on the @DailyDashboard Twitter account and with continuing articles in The Privacy Advisor.

Read More By Sam Pfeifle:
What NIST Is Hoping To Get Out Of Its Privacy Grant Program
PRIVACY IN POP CULTURE: Lexicon Makes Magic of Privacy
Karen Neuman Named DHS CPO
The End for DNT? Not So Fast


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

NEW! FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Schooled in Privacy

Looking to get some higher-ed in privacy? Check out these schools that include data privacy courses in their curricula.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

The Industry of Privacy

Take stock, compare your practices to those of other organizations, and get budget with these studies on the industry of privacy.

More Resources »

P.S.R.—One Powerhouse Program

The program is too good to miss. The speakers are world-renowned. P.S.R. brings you the best of the best in privacy and security. Don't wait: Register now!

Speak at the Intensive!

The call for proposals for our London event, the Data Protection Intensive, is now open! Submit your session idea today.

Time to Get to Work at the Congress

Thought leadership, a thriving community and unrivaled education...the Congress prepares you for the challenges ahead. Register today.

GDPR Comprehensive London: Last Chance!

The IAPP GDPR Comprehensive heads to London this fall. This is your last chance at this popular program this year!

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»