Europe Data Protection Digest | Notes from the IAPP Europe Managing Director, 21 April 2017 Related reading: European Commission, experts uneasy over WP29 data portability interpretation

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Greetings from Washington, D.C.!

Privacy pros descended on the American capitol this week for the IAPP’s annual Global Privacy Summit: truly the world’s largest — and increasingly larger — gathering of privacy folks and service providers on the circuit calendar. This is my third Summit, and I am starting to feel like an "old hand" at this, yet it remains a big event, and at times a dizzying experience — this year we clocked in at 3,500 bodies on site.

One of the highlights for me so far was the Conversations in Privacy series, chaired by our very own VP of Research and Education Omer Tene. On the opening day, we were fortunate to have Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs and Data Protection, Dara Murphy, interact with Omer about Ireland’s growing role in the trans-Atlantic data economy. Minister Murphy is refreshingly open in his conversation and pragmatic in mindset. Talking with some of our members who were in attendance for the session, they were delighted to hear that Ireland is fully embracing the GDPR uniformly.

Minister Murphy also cautioned against Europe being overly prescriptive in the privacy space. While regulatory and business good practices in data protection areas such as Privacy Shield and GDPR are desirable, he said that the instruments must be workable and achievable to prevent Europe turning into a standalone ecosystem: We need to maintain an environment that fosters economic and digital growth, as well as innovation. The measures we determine today might not necessarily apply tomorrow.

Minister Murphy reiterated that the EU single digital market has some way to go in catching up with more traditional commerce markets, and while — as is typically the case — market conditions favor the big players, the desire in Europe was to create a more equal playing field to favor the indigenous SME sectors, which represent the driving force of the European economy.

Commissioner Ansip’s well-documented positions were clearly supported by the Minister: We must continue to remove barriers to digital trade.

Another interesting session was the Schrems, "the sequel" session, chaired by Ruth Boardman of Bird & Bird, with contributions from Irish commissioner Helen Dixon, Bruno Gencarelli of the European Commission, Alston & Bird's Peter Swire, and Paola Zeni of Palo Alto Networks. The session centered around the Irish High Court case brought by Schrems in a challenge of data transfers from the EU to the U.S., challenging standard contractual clauses in particular. Just weeks after the High Court hearing arguments from interested parties, Dixon stated that the "hearings were positive," adding, "It was an extremely comprehensive hearing on complex issues. This isn't a case where the judge will rush to judgment." 

The Summit has been far too rich in content to cover here in my humble commentary. Suffice to say, feedback has been extraordinary, and clearly our programming team and volunteers have done a stellar job reaching new heights and standards for future installments. The networking opportunities have also been immense, and it’s a real pleasure to engage with global citizens here in D.C., with their enduring passion for all things privacy. Once a year, the IAPP get to connect the global village, and it’s a terrific experience.

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