Adequacy decisions adopted by the European Union for the UK regarding data transfers.
The European Commission has recently adopted adequacy decisions for the United Kingdom. Since Brexit there has been some question as to the UK’s adequacy, or rather the level of protection afforded to data transfers between the EU and the UK. With the adoption of these adequacy decisions- one under the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, and the other for the Law Enforcement Directive, data transfers can now freely flow between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This data will be considered as having the equivalent level of protection that is guaranteed under EU law when being transferred to the UK.
The adequacy decisions adopted came after a thorough assessment process, during which data transfers occurred based on a Trade and Cooperation agreement.
Since the draft adequacy decisions for the UK were published in February, the UK’s practices and laws regarding personal data protection have been carefully assessed. In April, the EDPB gave its opinion on UK adequacy, which was then followed by a comitology procedure which included a vote from EU Member States. In the absence of an adequacy decision, and while in the process of establishing one, data transfers flowed between the EU and the UK, based on a Trade and Cooperation agreement. This agreement expired on June 30, 2021, and provided that, in the absence of an adequacy decision, all data transfers carried out in the context of its implementation would comply with the GDPR and Law Enforcement Directive.
UK data protection laws still very much resemble the laws under which the country operated as an EU Member State.
The UK, as a former EU Member State, had a data protection system which was still based on the very same rules under which UK data protection functioned while the UK was still an EU Member State. The principles, rights and obligations of the GDPR and Law Enforcement Directive have been fully incorporated into UK law. This has made, not only the Trade and Cooperation agreement, but also the adequacy decisions easier and more feasible. The UK provides strong safeguards regarding access to personal data by public authorities. In principle, The collection of data by intelligence authorities is subject to prior authorization by an independent judicial body.
The adequacy decisions include a sunset clause which causes them to expire after four years.
These adequacy decisions include a ‘sunset clause’. This is the first of its kind and strictly limits the duration of the validity of these adequacy decisions. What this means is that these decisions will automatically expire in four years, after which adequacy findings may be renewed. However, this is subject to the UK continuing to ensure an adequate level of data protection. The European Commission will continue to monitor the legal situation in the UK and at any point, reserves the right to intervene if the UK deviates from the current level of data protection provided. After the four year duration of these recently adopted adequacy decisions, if the European Commission decides to renew the adequacy decisions, the adoption process would start over.
GDPR adequacy related to immigration control has been excluded from this decision, to be reassessed pending judgments from the England and Wales Court of Appeal.
Due to a recent judgment of the England and Wales Court of Appeal, data transfers for the purposes of UK immigration control have been excluded from the scope of the GDPR adequacy decision. The judgment affects the validity and interpretation of certain data protection rights related to immigration and control and therefore the Commision, once this matter has been dealt with under UK law, will reassess the necessity of this exclusion.