Julian Hayes

The GDPR’s Second Birthday: Three Cheers But No Presents

The GDPR has just celebrated its second birthday and, to mark the occasion, the European Commission (‘EC’) has published an assessment of its effectiveness so far. While praising the ground-breaking data protection leviathan for what it has achieved to date, the EC has admitted that more needs to be done, particularly in the field of enforcement, if it is to create a genuinely level playing field for personal data rights across Europe and beyond.

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CMA: Pandemic Profiteering – take aim then hesitate

The initial shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic, declared in March, prompted authorities across Europe and in America to take urgent steps to protect consumers. Such measures included cracking down on anti-competitive behaviour and temporarily relaxing rules which might otherwise be detrimental to the public interest. Two months on, as countries around the world cautiously ease ‘lockdown’ measures, disturbing stories continue to emerge of competition law abuse, including profiteering on essential products, highlighting significant gaps in existing regulatory powers. While some countries have introduced tough temporary powers, the UK now seems to be hesitating.

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Data protection – another COVID-19 casualty?

With more than one third of the planet’s population currently under some form of COVID-19 related restriction, the wider impact of ‘lockdown’ is becoming apparent. In the UK alone, the wider human cost of this necessary measure has been staggering: two million routine NHS operations cancelled; close to one million applications for universal credit benefit in the final two weeks of March; and calls to a national domestic abuse helpline 49% above average. The global economic picture is equally bleak. The IMF calculates the world economy will shrink by 7% in 2020, with trade levels sinking dramatically and national borrowing set to rise to levels not seen in peacetime. In the face of such dire prospects, for a relaxation of lockdown have grown increasingly vocal. But with a vaccine still 12-18 months off, governments around the world are weighing the apparent trade-off between easing restrictions and maintaining public health.

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Data regulation: An ‘empathetic’ approach from the ICO, but risks remain

While the tragic human consequences of COVID-19 have played out on nightly news bulletins, regulators across Europe have scrambled to adjust their approach to minimise its immediate and longer-term economic consequences. Early on, the UK’s Information Commissioner (‘ICO’) declared its reasonableness and pragmatism in the face of the health emergency and, on 15 April, it fleshed this out in a publication setting out its regulatory approach during the coronavirus pandemic. The ICO’s document is one of a series issued by the data watchdog in recent weeks and will be welcomed by data controllers and processors under exceptional pressure. Nevertheless, those seeking dispensation from data security obligations at this time will look in vain, and risks remain for the unwary.

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Infodemic: Tackling COVID-19 online disinformation

Updated 22nd April 2020

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the internet was fertile territory for the spread of dangerous disinformation. Hostile states and malicious or misguided individuals quickly adopted the online sphere as a means of disseminating misleading and harmful material to a global audience for personal, financial or political aims. Steps were already taking place around the world to tackle the scourge of disinformation, often igniting concerns about freedom of speech. The global spread of the coronavirus has laid bare the lethal backdrop to this debate and galvanised social media giants and governments alike to tackle what the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’) has described a massive ‘infodemic’ accompanying the disease – an over-abundance of information, some accurate and some dangerously false, often leaving the public bewildered and vulnerable.

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