EU waves white flag over data protection officers

EU building 2Brussels’ chiefs have caved in over plans to force companies which process personal data – virtually all businesses these days – to hire dedicated data protection officers, potentially saving the industry tens of millions of pounds.
The early Christmas present for the industry follows intense lobbying from both the UK marketing sector – led by the DMA – and the Ministry of Justice.
At the moment, any firm processing personal data need only have a data controller, whose data responsibilities are normally just part of their role. They must also be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office; for the vast majority of firms this costs just £35 a year; for those with a turnover of more than £25.9m, the fee is £500.
The call for each company to appoint a dedicated data protection officer (DPO) – which could command a salary of up £60,000 a year – was heavily backed by MEPs.
However, the EU Council came out against the proposal. Now, according to a leaked Council presidency document, a compromise has been reached which means only those processing data on a massive scale or those holding highly personal information such as a person’s race, ethnicity, political or religious views or details of their health or sex life will have to hire a DPO.
The document, which is full of the usual Brussels gobbledygook, states: businesses whose “core activities consist of [personal data] processing operations which, by virtue of their nature, their scope and/or their purposes, require regular and systematic monitoring of the data subjects on a large scale” would be under an obligation to appoint a DPO.
Meanwhile businesses whose “core activities consist of processing on a large scale of special categories of data and data relating to criminal convictions and offences” would also be required to appoint a DPO, under the plans.
Public bodies would also be required to appoint a DPO, where they process personal data, according to the document.
Even then, a DPO could be shared by businesses operating in the same group or across several public bodies. A person employed as a DPO would also be able to do other tasks and duties.
In its original submission to the EU back in 2013, the Ministry of Justice said: “The Government does not believe that the requirement to have a data protection officer is necessary… and we believe there are other means of achieving the accountability principle.”

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