EDPB Releases Draft Guidelines On “Relevant And Reasoned Objection”

The EDPB seeks to define when a DPA would have criticism of a draft GDPR decision another DPA would need to heed.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has issued a draft of its construction of a key authority in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) designed to guide and coordinate investigations that cross borders in the European Union (EU). A lead supervisory authority (LSA) is supposed to consider “relevant and reasoned objections” to draft decisions submitted by concerned supervisory authorities (CSA). If an LSA rejects such feedback, then the GDPR action gets kicked over to the EDPB. However, since this has only happened once, the EDPB thought it appropriate to define the term so all the EU data protection authorities (DPA) would understand what objections are relevant and reasoned.

The EDPB explained that the guidance “aims at establishing a common understanding of the notion of the terms “relevant and reasoned”, including what should be considered when assessing whether an objection “clearly demonstrates the significance of the risks posed by the draft decision.” The EDPB stated “he unfamiliarity surrounding “what constitutes relevant and reasoned objection” has the potential to create misunderstandings and inconsistent applications by the supervisory authorities, the EU legislator (sic) suggested that the EDPB should issue guidelines on this concept (end of Recital 124 GDPR).”

Article 60 of the GDPR provides if a CSA “expresses a relevant and reasoned objection to the draft decision [of the LSA], the lead supervisory authority shall, if it does not follow the relevant and reasoned objection or is of the opinion that the objection is not relevant or reasoned, submit the matter to the consistency mechanism.” Article 65 also provides that where “a supervisory authority concerned has raised a relevant and reasoned objection to a draft decision of the lead authority or the lead authority has rejected such an objection as being not relevant or reasoned,” then the EDPB must step in and work towards a final binding decision. This process was installed so that the enforcement of the EDPB would be uniform throughout the EU and to forestall the possibility that one DPA or a small group of DPAs would construe the data protection regime in ways contrary to its intention. As it is, there have already been allegations that some DPAs have been ineffective or lenient towards alleged offenders.

The EDPB stated in relevant part:

  • Article 4(24) GDPR defines “relevant and reasoned objection” as an objection to a draft decision as to whether there is an infringement of this Regulation, or whether envisaged action in relation to the controller or processor complies with this Regulation, which clearly demonstrates the significance of the risks posed by the draft decision as regards the fundamental rights and freedoms of data subjects and, where applicable, the free flow of personal data within the Union”.
  • This concept serves as a threshold in situations where CSAs aim to object to a (revised) draft decision to be adopted by the LSA under Article 60 GDPR.
  • In order for the objection to be considered as “relevant”, there must be a direct connection between the objection and the draft decision at issue. More specifically, the objection needs to concern either whether there is an infringement of the GDPR or whether the envisaged action in relation to the controller or processor complies with the GDPR.
  • In order for the objection to be “reasoned”, it needs to include clarifications and arguments as to why an amendment of the decision is proposed (i.e. the alleged legal / factual mistakes of the draft decision). It also needs to demonstrate how the change would lead to a different conclusion as to whether there is an infringement of the GDPR or whether the envisaged action in relation to the controller or processor complies with the GDPR.

Of course, this guidance is released at a time when the EDPB is using these powers for the first time. Unnamed DPAs have objected to proposed ruling by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), the lead DPA investigating 2018 and 2019 Twitter data breaches. Consequently, the disagreement has been handed off to the EDPB, and depending on how resolution of this matter happens, the body could decide Twitter’s punishment, including a possible fine of up to 4% of its worldwide revenue. What’s more, the DPC is the lead agency investigating Facebook’s WhatsApp and Instagram, among other large technology companies, and may have to relinquish those decisions as well if other DPAs disagree with the DPC’s proposed punishment for any wrongdoing.

The DPC submitted its draft decision to other DPAs on the Twitter breach in May. The DPC stated “[t]he draft decision focusses on whether Twitter International Company has complied with Articles 33(1) and 33(5) of the GDPR” (i.e. the provision pertaining to data breach and proper notification protocol. The DPC further explained

  • This draft decision is one of a number of significant developments in DPC inquiries into “big tech” companies this week. Deputy Commissioner Graham Doyle has confirmed that: “In addition to submitting this draft decision to other EU supervisory authorities, we have this week sent a preliminary draft decision to WhatsApp Ireland Limited for their final submissions which will be taken in to account by the DPC before preparing a draft decision in that matter also for Article 60 purposes.  The inquiry into WhatsApp Ireland examines its compliance with Articles 12 to 14 of the GDPR in terms of transparency including in relation to transparency around what information is shared with Facebook.“
  • The DPC has also completed the investigation phase of a complaint-based inquiry which focuses on Facebook Ireland’s obligations to establish a lawful basis for personal data processing. This inquiry is now in the decision-making phase at the DPC.

Under Article 65 now that the draft decision on Twitter has been handed over to the EDPB, it has a month to get two-thirds of its members to agree to a binding decision it may draft. If this is not achieved, then the Board has another two weeks to get a simple majority, and if this does not occur, then EDPB Chair Andrea Jelinek alone may decide. Consequently, it is possible the EDPB redrafts the DPC decision and tries to get buy in from the DPAs that make up the Board to support a stronger punishment of Twitter.

© Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog and michaelkans.blog, 2019-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog, and michaelkans.blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

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