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Europe Data Protection Digest | Notes from the IAPP Europe Managing Director, July 31, 2015 Related reading: EDPB adopts opinions on draft UK adequacy decision



Greetings from Dublin!

Back in the city of my birth for a fleeting visit, a few meetings and a meal with the Irish information security community courtesy of ISACA Ireland (Information Systems Audit & Control Association).

August is almost upon us, and if you know Brussels, then you’ll appreciate that folks have been slowly fleeing the city for sunnier climes in the last weeks. Although still operational, I can sense the change of daily pace in the European quarter; I can drive my car unhindered, should I wish to. That aside, the Brussels news splash of the week was on Monday, when Giovanni Buttarelli sent his recommendations to the EU co-legislators currently negotiating the final text of the GDPR. He also launched a mobile app which gives a comparative overview of the institutional texts alongside the EDPS’s take on the text (see our analysis here). 

In other news, the United Nations (UN) has hit the privacy scene of late. If you recall earlier this month, the Human Rights Council of the UN nominated Joseph Cannataci, a Maltese human rights and data privacy scholar, as special rapporteur on the right to privacy (as Angelique Carson, CIPP/US, notes, it was a bit of a surprise). With a three-year mandate, Cannataci will now be concerned with tasks such as raising awareness, reporting on breaches of data privacy or presenting annual reports to the General Assembly. The scope of his tasks will also cover the private sector. 

Staying with the UN theme, a new UN Human Rights Committee review released on Tuesday scored the United States very poorly for protecting its citizens’ privacy. The Committee issued a number of mid-term report cards for several countries on how well they have adhered to, and implemented, its recommendations related to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international treaty outlining the civil and political rights of all individuals. The U.S. performance in several aspects of protecting privacy was graded “not satisfactory.”

Last year, the Human Rights Committee submitted recommendations to the United States on areas where it could improve the privacy rights of its citizens, following the Snowden revelations on government spying. According to this latest mid-term review, many of those suggestions were not addressed. There has been some reaction from the civil libertarians—as expected.

Let’s look at some of the context here: This is not the first time that the UN has expressed concern with U.S. non-compliance. Remember that when the U.S. Senate ratified the ICCPR back in 1992, it was with multiple reservations, understandings, and declarations; in short, there were so many, one wondered how it could be implemented domestically—well, in short, it hasn’t been. To cite one of the core arguments, there is a prevailing opinion that certain articles of the ICCPR may be unconstitutional according to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, hence the reservations.

It is a complex matter, which seems far from being resolved. That said, you have to feel that there is increasing palatable pressure on the administration and Congress to address intelligence oversight in a more meaningful way. Privacy, ever present, is like an inconvenient truth edging its way slowly but surely out of the shadows into the mainstream.   


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