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Europe Data Protection Digest | Notes from the IAPP Europe Managing Director, 23 December 2016 Related reading: A conversation on protecting children's privacy



Season's greetings from Brussels!

With 2016 coming to a close, it is perhaps fitting to look back on how the year has played out. It’s been a roller coaster in many respects, with much movement — and upheaval — in both the privacy world and the political stage.

Arguably, it has been a watershed year for privacy and privacy pros, with two hugely significant developments. Firstly, the year was truly marked by the passing into law of the hotly debated EU General Data Protection Regulation. One of the most lobbied pieces of EU legislation in history, it comes with imperfection — as with everything —  and, as with any new act of legislation, a newly created body of practice, and change in mindset, that will need to be implemented and adopted by industry and regulators alike before it is a sustainable reality. GDPR 2017 will remain a key year for privacy pros as we move rapidly from the policy interpretation to the operationalization of provisions into everyday business scenarios. For many, compliance questions still need answers, and I suspect that as we continue that journey we will see a massive surge in "know-how" acquisition and activity in the year to come.

The heralding of Privacy Shield also proved significant. An improved Safe Harbor 2.0 was accepted by authorities on both sides of the Atlantic, now in force since August. Still somewhat controversial, the WP29, while optimistic, has reserved a moratorium of a year before giving the Shield its full blessing; we can expect an exhaustive review in the second half of 2017 to validate its adequacy robustness in line with the opinions expressed by the Court of Justice of the EU.

On the political front, we woke up this year to the overexposed maxim known as Brexit, hard or soft, blue, white and red, or shades thereof; this is and remains a political football for the U.K.  A monumental shift in U.K. trade and foreign policy positions once seen through to its conclusion — and that is some way off beyond the two-year exit phase — will dramatically influence the way we do business in the world, the EU landscape as we know it will also change. If nothing else, my hope is that this unexpected threat to the Union can bring about positive change from within as to how the Union can better serve EU citizens. The questions over Brexit and how it ultimately manifests itself through the privacy and data protection lens, moreover, remains unclear.

Again, expect 2017 to yield answers.

Our American cousins were also left in a state of shock as Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected as the 45th president of the United States of America, taking office next month. I think it is fair to say, while a rank outsider when campaigning began, Trump toppled the American political establishment in the process. One can only imagine what’s in store with the Trump brand; not only for the U.S.A., but for the world at large. It would be nice to think that his revolution will be gentle, but that’s not in line with the nature of the man; Donald Trump is a lot of things. Gentle he is not. His first 100 days in office will prove interesting.

And what of 2017? We will have a lot on the slate here in Europe: A Dutch general election, a French presidential election, as well as the German federal elections to look forward to. Add to that a new president of the European Parliament,  as well as the triggering of Article 50 to kick-start Brexit, and you can be sure none of it will be dull. Elsewhere in the world, we will of course witness Trump’s inauguration, China’s new five-year plan, and, barring appeals to President Trump by U.S. government agencies, the release of the JFK assassination records by October 2017.

Hold on to your seats. The coming year could be as equally groundbreaking as 2016; and I for one am in no mood to make predictions, going by my abysmal record this year. On that note, and on behalf of all my colleagues here at the IAPP, I wish you all a splendid festive season, and a Happy New Year!


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