Data breaches: new Article 29 Working Party guidance

In anticipation of the GDPR, various guidance has been published by the Article 29 Working Party, the body of national EU data regulators.

Of most relevance in the cyber context is the guidance on personal data breach notifications; the Article 29 Working Party issued its initial guidance in October 2017 and published a final version of the guidelines (which remained mostly unchanged) in February 2018.

This guidance relates to the new requirement under the GDPR for all controllers to notify the appropriate data protection authority of a personal data breach, following a cyber attack for example. This will include providing the regulator with a significant amount of information about the breach and marks a change from the previous regime (under the Data Protection Act 1998) where notification to the ICO was not mandatory, although the ICO encouraged notification for serious breaches.

The key areas addressed by the guidance include further clarity on what constitutes awareness of a breach, when notification is and is not required in respect of examples of different types of breaches, when the clock starts running in relation to the 72 hour deadline and how to manage conflicting requirements of the GDPR and those of law enforcement authorities outside of the EU. For further information, a copy of the guidance can be found here.

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The GDPR: Practical European Guidance on personal data breach notification requirements

The GDPR introduces a new mandatory requirement for all controllers to notify the appropriate data protection authority of a “personal data breach” likely to result in a risk to people’s rights and freedoms, for example following a cyber-attack. This will include providing the regulator with a significant amount of information about the breach and marks a change from the present regime where notification to the ICO is not mandatory (although the ICO does already encourage notification for “serious breaches”).

The GDPR also includes a new obligation to notify the affected data subjects themselves: when a “personal data breach is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons”. There is an exception in relation to those parts of the data which have been rendered unintelligible to unauthorised persons through the application of technical measures such as encryption or so-called “salting and hashing”.

Fines for breach of the separate fundamental requirements to implement appropriate technical and organisational security measures under Article 32(1) of the GDPR are set at the lower tier under the new sanctions regime. Article 33(5) also requires controllers to document all personal data breaches – comprising the facts of the breach, its effects and remedial actions taken – so as to enable regulators to verify compliance with the Article 32 requirements. This is in line with the accountability principle that runs through the provisions of the GDPR.

The Article 29 Working Party recently issued guidance which discusses the notification obligations and includes some worked examples of various types of breaches, including when notification is and isn’t required. Continue reading