Today, the Data Protection Authority of Hamburg (“authority”) informed in a press statement (German) that, in the past months, it reviewed the data transfers of 35 international organizations based in Hamburg.
After the Schrems judgment in October 2015 by the European Court of Justice, declaring the former Safe Harbor-decision by the European Commission invalid, the authority contacted organizations in Hamburg operating also in the USA and reviewed the legality of the transfer of personal data to America, especially if other instruments than the Safe Harbor-decision was used. According to the press statement, the tests have shown that the vast majority of the companies had changed the legal basis of their transfers of data, implementing the so-called standard contractual clauses which are also based on a decision by the European Commission.
However, the authority informs that a few companies had not switched to a valid alternative within half a year after the judgement. The data transfers of these companies were therefore considered unlawful.
While some of the initiated proceedings could until now not be completed and other reviews are still running, three administrative fines issued due to illegal transfers of personal data of customers and employees have become legally binding now.
With regard to the new EU-US Privacy Shield, the designated successor of the Safe Harbor-decision, the Data Protection Commissioner of Hamburg, Prof. Caspar, calls on the European Commission and the US government to revise the draft decision in several key areas. Against this background, Prof. Caspar also wants to put the question of the legality of the EU standard contractual clauses on the table. But the commissioner also highlights that the use of these alterative instruments for data transfers to third countries is currently not objected.
According to a report by Spiegel Online (German), the three fined companies are Adobe (fine: 8.000 Euros), Punica (fine: 9.000 Euros) and Unilever (fine: 11.000 Euros). Since all three companies have changed the legal basis for data transfers during the proceeding, the fine was significantly smaller than the theoretical maximum of 300.000 Euros.