Brexit and EU Privacy

June 28th, 2016
Data Security-Privacy

By Paul Arne

The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union certainly has raised a large number of questions about what things will look like both when and before the dust settles. One issue that will need to be resolved relates to personal privacy. After exit from the EU, will the UK’s laws related to privacy allow personal data to be sent from the EU to the UK? What will the UK require for data transfers to the U.S.?

Currently, protecting the privacy of personal information is mostly governed by the EU’s “Data Directive” (Directive 95/46/EC).  The Data Directive is both wide and deep. A particular issue related to Brexit is its prohibition of sending personal data from the EU to outside the EU, unless the receiving country’s law is “adequate” to protect the privacy of the EU citizens. So far, only a limited number of the countries have laws that have been deemed “adequate.” Of the larger countries that have been approved, they are (only) Canada, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. The United States is NOT one of those countries.

During the breakup, one question will be whether the UK will retain the Data Directive or a similar regime for protecting personal data. It may instead act to take a more relaxed approach to protection of personal data, allowing, for example, personal data transfers to the United States. It is possible the UK may decide that a data relationship with the U.S. is more important than one with the EU. Presently, the U.S. is the UK’s largest trading partner, but trade between the UK and all EU countries are larger than trade with the U.S.

While there are plenty of legal implications of the UK’s exit from the EU, most of which are hardly identified at this point, much less resolved, the status of the UK privacy laws will be an important issue for all multinational companies and all companies who do business, or plan to do business, in the UK.

The information presented is for educational and informational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Readers should consult their professional advisor.  Any opinions expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the featured author and not of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP.