The Baden-Württemberg data protection authority (“LfDI”) has issued guidance to controllers and processors following the Schrems II judgement. The guidance includes helpful, practical tips which entities can take with respect to their current and future international transfers. Whilst aimed primarily at organisations subject to the jurisdiction of the LfDI, the guidance may be helpful for organisations throughout Europe who are grappling with the impact of the Schrems II decision.

In summary, exporting entities which are supervised by the LfDI are expected to:

  1. review the instances in which they export personal data to third countries;
  2. contact their contractual partners or service providers to inform them of the consequences of the Schrems II case;
  3. check whether there is an adequacy decision for the relevant third country;
  4. research and consider the legal environment in the relevant third country;
  5. check if the SCCs which were approved by the European Commission can be used; and
  6. if so, verify that SCCs are in place and that there are additional transfer guarantees to supplement the SCCs.

In our view it is the underlined step 4 above that is likely to cause the most difficulties and this is an area where further guidance is required. An obligation on exporters to undertake due diligence on the complete legal environment in a third country (some of which may not be completely transparent) goes beyond what most organisations undertake at the moment and it is not clear how this will be achieved going forwards.

Amendments to the Standard Contractual Clauses

The LfDI also suggests that exporting controllers amend or supplement the controller-processor Standard Contractual Clauses in the following ways:

  1. Clause 4(f): The LfDI recommends that exporting entities inform affected persons that their data is being transferred to a third country which does not have an adequate level of protection not only when transmitting special categories of data, but when transferring any personal data in these circumstances. This notification should occur before or as soon as possible after the transfer;
  2. Clause 5(d)(i): The data importer should inform not only the data exporter, but also the data subject(s) of all legally binding requests from an enforcement authority to pass on the relevant personal data. If such contact is otherwise prohibited by law, the data importer should contact the supervisory authority and clarify the procedure as soon as possible;
  3. Clause 5(d): Data exporters should contractually oblige the data importer to refrain from disclosing personal data to third country authorities until the competent court orders or requires them to disclose personal data; and
  4. Clause 7(1): Exporting and importing entities should only include Clause 7(1)(b) (which allows the data importer to refer any dispute to the courts of the Member State in which the data exporter is established in the event that a data subject asserts rights as a third party beneficiary and/or claims for damages against the data importer based on the contractual clauses) and not include Clause 7(1)(a) which allows a data importer to refer the dispute to an “independent person”.

Although it is clear that ‘amendments’ to the Standard Contractual Clauses are not permitted, it has long been recognised that the clauses may be ‘supplemented’ with additional provisions provided that the effect of those provisions is not to amend the substantive content of the clauses themselves. As such, the suggested ‘amendments’ above (with the exception possibly of the rejection of clause 7(1)(a) of the Standard Contractual Clauses) should be lawfully possible. However, from first looks, it appears that there may be logistical challenges with some of the suggestions. For example, is it practical or even desirable for the data processor/data importer to have an obligation to notify data subjects of an access request received by a third country law enforcement agency? The processor is unlikely to have a direct relationship with the data subjects and may not even be able to contact them depending on the data being processed. There also remains the fundamental issue that nothing in a contract between exporter and importer is going to prevent law enforcement access.

That being said, whilst regulators across Europe published some initial thoughts and guidance immediately following the Schrems II judgement, this is the first piece of practical guidance that we’ve seen published by a supervisory authority. It will now be interesting to see whether other supervisory authorities and/or the EDPB follow a similar approach in their Schrems II guidance.