EU Com­mis­si­on publishes new stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses as basis for inter­na­tio­nal data transfers

Fol­lo­wing the “Schrems II” decis­i­on by the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce (ECJ) and the coör­di­na­ted inves­ti­ga­ti­on by data pro­tec­tion aut­ho­ri­ties in the various Ger­man Sta­tes which is alre­a­dy under­way, the EU Com­mis­si­on adopted and published new stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses for data trans­fers last week.

Goal and pur­po­se of the stan­dard data pro­tec­tion clauses

The stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses are meant to ensu­re adhe­rence with the requi­re­ments of the Gene­ral Data Pro­tec­tion regu­la­ti­on (GDPR) in con­nec­tion with the trans­fer of per­so­nal data to third count­ries. The EU Com­mis­si­on is adop­ting the­se clau­ses in respon­se to the “Schrems II” decis­i­on,  in which the ECJ not only ruled that the EU-US Pri­va­cy Shield is inva­lid as an ade­quacy decis­i­on for the exch­an­ge of data bet­ween the EU and the US, but also set strict requi­re­ments for the use of stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses as the basis for data trans­fers to third countries.

Key aspects of the stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses published to date

The new stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses have a modu­lar struc­tu­re and were gene­ral­ly desi­gned with inter­na­tio­nal data exch­an­ges in mind. They include the fol­lo­wing modules:

  • Modu­le 1: Trans­fer con­trol­ler to controller
  • Modu­le 2: Trans­fer con­trol­ler to processor
  • Modu­le 3: Trans­fer pro­ces­sor to processor
  • Modu­le 4: Trans­fer pro­ces­sor to controller

The­se clau­ses con­tain appro­pria­te safe­guards, inclu­ding enforceable rights for data sub­jects and effec­ti­ve legal reme­dies in accordance with the GDPR with regard to data trans­fers by con­trol­lers to other con­trol­lers or pro­ces­sors and/or bet­ween pro­ces­sors. But the par­ties are free to sti­pu­la­te broa­der pro­tec­tions by indi­vi­du­al agree­ment, pro­vi­ded that tho­se agree­ments do not con­tra­dict the EU Com­mis­si­on’s stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses for data trans­fers, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, and that they do not pre­ju­di­ce the fun­da­men­tal rights or free­doms of data subjects.

The EU Com­mis­si­on has also published stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses rela­ting to the exch­an­ge of data bet­ween con­trol­lers and pro­ces­sors within the EU. Howe­ver, the­re is no obli­ga­ti­on to use the­se stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses; rather, they are inten­ded as a pro­po­sal for the EU Commission.

Future deve­lo­p­ments

The published docu­ments are final working docu­ments. The offi­ci­al ver­si­on will be published in the EU Offi­ci­al Jour­nal in the coming days, so that some minor edi­to­ri­al chan­ges are still to be expec­ted. The new stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses for data trans­fers should replace the for­mer stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses, which were crea­ted based on the old Data Pro­tec­tion Direc­ti­ve, within 18 months, so as to meet the requi­re­ments of the ECJ’s “Schrems II” decis­i­on. Nevert­hel­ess, the EU Com­mis­si­on has alre­a­dy found that an indi­vi­du­al assess­ment as to the level of data pro­tec­tion remains neces­sa­ry and the­re still no sign of an agree­ment with the US which could form the basis for a new ade­quacy decis­i­on (only in German).

Plea­se let us know if you need help with regard to assess­ment of your exis­ting data trans­fers to third count­ries or with imple­men­ta­ti­on of the stan­dard con­trac­tu­al clau­ses for data trans­fers. We would also be glad to assist you in con­nec­tion with pro­ces­sing arrangements.

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