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By Sam Pfeifle
Publications Director

The German data protection authority that operates the EuroPriSe privacy certification seal, the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection Schleswig-Holstein (ULD), announced this month that it is transferring operations to a new entity to be known as EuroPriSe GmbH as of January 1. This, said Thilo Weichert, head of ULD, will allow the program to grow in a way that was not possible as part of a regulatory body like ULD.

Instead, ULD will serve as part of an advisory board, still in development, that will govern the new organization, to be headed by CEO Marcus Belke and located in Bonn, Germany.

Launched in 2009 after two years of development by an international consortium at the behest of the European Union, EuroPriSe is short for the European Privacy Seal, which is conveyed to individual products and services that fulfill an assessment of legal and technical compliance with European data protection laws. Those with awarded seals include Microsoft, Novocard and Wunderloop. As ULD has administered it, they quickly realized “they haven’t got the resources to really grow it,” said Jurgen van Staden, senior consultant with 2B Advice, a 25-person international privacy consulting firm. Also, “people started seeing it as more of a German thing than an EU-wide seal,” which was not the program’s intent in the first place.

ULD began casting around for proposals to take over the program, and 2B Advice, which had consulted with a number of companies looking to get their products and services certified, presented a plan for setting up an independent, impartial organization.

“It’s a completely separate organization,” van Staden said in an interview with The Privacy Advisor. “It will stay close to the structure that’s already been developed and will have an advisory board of individuals consisting of people like Article 29 Working Group members, experts in the field, academics, some government officials … We’re at the beginning stages of figuring out who’s interested. It will take some time.”

The new firm will have roughly five to 10 employees from the outset, said van Staden, and the hope is that the transition will be relatively seamless. According to a fact sheet supplied by ULD, “up to December 31, 2013, ULD will continue to process ongoing matters and—as far as possible—conclude them. New certification agreements will continue to be accepted by ULD, but processed by EuroPriSe GmbH as of January 1, 2014 … If any client is unwilling to have their order passed on to EuroPriSe GmbH for processing, the processing will be handled by ULD.”

Certainly, said van Staden, the high standards of the European Privacy Seal will remain in place: “It’s a pretty strenuous process to get through.” However, the new organization will allow for extending certifications to a much larger group of methods, concepts, people, training sessions and websites “in accordance with the tried and tested certification structure EuroPriSe experts and customers have come to know.” You can also expect an expansion of training sessions in EU member states other than Germany. 

The hope, said van Staden, is that the seal will have value globally, in “that it came right from Euro regulations, and it’s something companies can use to show compliance with European regulation, that they’re doing everything they can to comply.”

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