Last week, it was announced that during December 2018 almost one thousand German public figures, including journalists and a number of prominent politicians including the Chancellor and President, were the subject of one of Germany’s largest data breaches. The leaked data included contacts, private chats, credit card details and other financial details of figures from many of the major German political parties. The German interior ministry have since stated that there is no evidence that government systems or data have been compromised in the cyberattack. Continue reading
2018 was a landmark year for data protection and privacy; the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR“) came into effect on 25 May 2018 and implemented a comprehensive reform of the EU data protection regime. So what could 2019 possibly have in store for data protection and privacy? This article sets out some predictions for further data protection developments in the year to come. Continue reading
The UK Government has published a “no deal” note to clarify how data protection law will work in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The note confirms that separate draft regulations and more detailed guidance will be published in the next few weeks but, in the meantime, it clarifies at a high level a number of key issues for organisations both within the UK and outside but doing business with the UK.
The Mirai malware gained its infamy in October 2016 following its record breaking attack on systems operated by domain name system provider Dyn, using unsecured Internet of Things (“IoT“) enabled “smart” devices (such as CCTV recorders, webcams and routers). It resulted in the widely reported outage of Twitter, Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb, amongst others.
Mirai is highly effective as it targets devices which often run unattended, do not have anti-virus installed, and have no external visual indication that they have been compromised. Mirai works by systematically trying the 62 most common default username/password combinations against the Telnet/SSH port of internet connected devices in an attempt to gain administrative access to the device. Whilst simple, the sheer number of vulnerable devices on the internet means that “botmasters” (the creators and controllers of the collections of compromised computers and IoT devices (each a bot and together a botnet)) have been able to create and sustain botnets containing up to 100,000 devices. Botmasters are then able to sell the use of their botnets online to the highest bidder for use in, for example, Distributed Denial of Service attacks against specific targets (e.g. Dyn). Continue reading
On 23 November 2018, the European Data Protection Board (the “EDPB“) published its draft guidelines on Article 3 of the GDPR, being the provision that sets out the territorial scope of Europe’s data protection legislation.
The guidelines are only in draft form and subject to consultation but they do go some way to clarifying key questions regarding the application of the GDPR. That being said, they do not cover every possible permutation of Article 3, meaning that there remain gaps where organisations will need to exercise judgment without any comfort that their interpretation will align with that of the regulators. In particular, there would seem to still be question marks around the application of Article 3(2)(a) and what actually constitutes the offering of goods and services to individuals in the EU. Continue reading
Following a UK Cabinet meeting on 14 November 2018, the UK Government has announced support for the text of a draft Withdrawal Agreement and an outline of the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship agreed with EU negotiators. The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019 and includes a transition period through to 31 December 2020, during which EU law will continue to apply in and to the UK (the “Transition Period”). Data protection features in both the draft Withdrawal Agreement and the outline Political Declaration, reflecting the significance of the data protection rules to both the EU and the UK.
The UK data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has issued its first enforcement notice under the EU’s new strict data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation (679/2016/EU) (GDPR). The notice is particularly noteworthy because it has been issued against a company located in Canada, which does not appear to have any presence within the EU.
Not only is it the first extra-territorial notice issued by the ICO under the GDPR, but it is the first action ever taken by the ICO against an entity outside the UK. It is understood that the notice is being appealed. The extraterritorial reach of the GDPR is as yet untested and, without any regulatory guidance as to interpretation, how that appeal plays out may be an early indicator as to the issues that could arise in extra-territorial enforcement under the GDPR.
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Court of Appeal confirms Morrisons vicariously liable for employee’s deliberate actions in first successful UK class action for data breach
The Court of Appeal has today dismissed an appeal against the High Court’s decision that Morrisons was vicariously liable for its employee’s misuse of data, despite: (i) Morrisons having done as much as it reasonably could to prevent the misuse; and (ii) the employee’s intention being to cause reputational or financial damage to Morrisons itself: Wm Morrisons Supermarkets Plc v Various Claimants  EWCA Civ 2339 (click here for the Court of Appeal’s full judgement and click here for our summary of the High Court decision).
Summary implications for businesses
This case highlights the wide reach of data protection. An organisation can be liable for data breaches even if it has taken appropriate measures to comply with the data protection legislation itself, and even if it is the intended victim of the breach. In this respect, the decision will also concern employers who can now be vicariously liable for the actions taken by a rogue employee even with appropriate safeguards in place to protect employee personal data. In addition to civil liability, organisations may suffer further damage as a result of negative publicity and impact on share price.
The fear for organisations will now be that this decision, combined with the legislative changes made by the EU General Data Protection Legislation (“GDPR“), increased public awareness of data protection issues, and the publicity that the case has attracted, could spark a new wave of court cases from workers and customers in the event of a data breach. Whilst individuals may not themselves be entitled to significant sums, if the data breach affects large numbers of individuals, the total potential liability for organisations could become commensurately large. In this regard, it will be interesting to see how the court approaches the issue of quantum in the case against Morrisons.
The Court of Appeal suggested that insurance could be the answer to “Doomsday or Armageddon arguments” about the effect of its decision. Cyber insurance typically covers claims for breaches of confidential information; and in some circumstances coverage may also be found in other classes of liability insurance. However, at this stage the UK cyber insurance market remains in its infancy and claims experience is limited. It therefore remains to be seen how the market will react to this enhanced exposure and whether insurance will be an effective tool to offset the increased risks that organisations now face.
Importantly, this case related to data breaches which occurred prior to 25 May 2018 (i.e. prior to the implementation of the GDPR). In the post-GDPR world where there is an express right for individuals to be compensated for non-material damage (i.e. distress) it could become even easier to bring such actions, particularly where there have been findings of non-compliance by the Information Comissioner’s Office (“ICO“) (the UK’s data protection regulator). With multiple data breaches having hit the headlines since 25 May 2018 (including the Conservative Party Conference, Butlin’s, British Airways, Dixons Carphone, Facebook and Google+), it will be interesting to see the impact of this decision on future individual compensation claims and whether or not this case opens the floodgates for data breach class action claims in the UK. Continue reading
On 13 September 2018, the UK Government published a series of technical notes setting out the implications in various sectors and areas of a ‘no deal’ scenario (i.e. a scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without an agreement), including a note specifically covering data protection. The note sets out the actions UK organisations should take to enable the continued flow of personal data between the UK and the EU in the event that the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place.
Transferring data from the UK to the EU
Even in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario, the technical note confirms that there should not be any impact on the transfer of personal data from the UK to the EU and beyond. A combination of the UK Data Protection Act 2018 and the EU Withdrawal Act would incorporate the GDPR into UK law. As such, the provisions currently found in Chapter V of the GDPR, which prohibit the transfer of personal data outside of the EEA without adequate safeguards in place, would remain. UK entities would therefore continue to be able to freely send personal data from the UK to the EU, and would continue to need to satisfy an appropriate legal basis to legitimise the transfer of personal data beyond European borders.
The technical note further confirms that, “in recognition of the unprecedented degree of alignment between the UK and EU’s data protection regimes, the UK would at the point of exit continue to allow the free flow of personal data from the UK to the EU”. However, there is a potential sting in the tail as the technical note provides that the UK will keep this under review – once the UK data protection regime is no longer required to mirror the GDPR, it would in theory be possible for the UK Government to amend the UK rules to provide that, for example, no personal data could be transferred outside of the UK without additional safeguards in place – meaning that this could potentially change in the future.