European Data Protection Supervisor

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Official logo of the European Data Protection Supervisor
Location:

Brussels, Belgium

Established: January 2004
Legal basis:
Supervisor:

Peter Hustinx

Assistant Supervisor:

Giovanni Buttarelli

Website: www.edps.europa.eu

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is an independent supervisory authority whose primary objective is to ensure that European institutions and bodies respect the right to privacy and data protection when they process personal data and develop new policies.

Peter Hustinx and Giovanni Buttarelli have been appointed European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and Assistant Supervisor respectively by a joint decision of the European Parliament and the Council. Assigned for a five-year term, they took office in January 2009.[1]

The duties and powers of the EDPS and the Assistant Supervisor, as well as the institutional independence of the supervisory authority, are set out in the "Data Protection Regulation".[2]

In practice the EDPS' activities can be divided into three main roles: supervision, consultation and cooperation.

Supervision

In the "supervisory" role the EDPS' core task is to monitor the processing of personal data in European institutions and bodies.[3] The EDPS does so in cooperation with the data protection officers (DPO)[4] present in each European institution and body. The DPO has to notify the EDPS about any processing operations involving sensitive personal data or likely to pose other specific risks. The EDPS then analyses this processing in relation to the Data Protection Regulation and issues a "prior check" opinion.[5] In most cases, this exercise leads to a set of recommendations that the institution or body needs to implement so as to ensure compliance with data protection rules.

In 2009 for instance the EDPS adopted more than 100 prior check opinions, mainly covering issues such as health data, staff evaluation, recruitment, time management, telephone recording performance tools and security investigations. These opinions are published on the EDPS website and their implementation is followed up systematically.

The implementation of the Data Protection Regulation in the EU administration is also closely monitored by regular stock taking of performance indicators, involving all EU institutions and bodies. In addition to this general monitoring exercise, the EDPS also carries out on-site inspections to measure compliance in practice.

The supervisory role of the EDPS also involves investigating complaints[6] lodged by EU staff members or any other individual who feels that their personal data have been mishandled by a European institution or body. Examples of complaints include alleged violations of confidentiality, access to data, right of rectification, erasure of data, and excessive collection or illegal use of data by the controller.

The EDPS has also developed other forms of supervision, such as advice on administrative measures and the drafting of
thematic guidelines.

Consultation

In the "consultative" role the EDPS advises the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on data protection issues in a range of policy areas.[7] This consultative role relates to proposals for new legislation as well as other initiatives that may affect personal data protection in the EU. It usually results in a formal opinion, but the EDPS may also provide guidance in the form of comments or policy papers. Technological developments having an impact on data protection are also monitored as part of this activity.

Some recent significant issues to which the EDPS gave special attention include the " TFTP-SWIFT" agreement on access to financial information,[8] the revision of the e-Privacy Directive on electronic communications, the developments concerning the Stockholm Programme on Justice and Home Affairs policies, the review of the Eurodac and Dublin Regulations on asylum policy, and public access to documents.

The EDPS is also following closely the ongoing review of the legal framework for data protection aimed at modernising the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) in response to new globalisation and technological challenges.[9] Realising this critical objective will be the dominant item on the EDPS' agenda over the coming years.

As part of his consultative role, the EDPS also intervenes in cases before the European Court of Justice that are relevant to his tasks. In June 2009 for instance, he intervened in a case concerning the relationship between transparency and data protection – the so-called "Bavarian Lager" case.[10]

Cooperation

The EDPS cooperates with other data protection authorities in order to promote a consistent approach to data protection throughout Europe.

The main platform for cooperation between data protection authorities in Europe is the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party. The EDPS takes part in the activities of the Working Party, which plays an important role in the uniform application of the Data Protection Directive. The EDPS and the Working Party have cooperated effectively on a range of subjects, but particularly on the implementation of the Data Protection Directive and on the challenges raised by new technologies. The EDPS also strongly supported initiatives taken to ensure that international data flows respect European data protection principles

One of the most important cooperative tasks of the EDPS involves Eurodac where the responsibilities for supervision are shared with national data protection authorities.

The EDPS cooperates with data protection authorities in the former "third pillar" – the area of police and judicial cooperation – and with the Working Party on Police and Justice.

Cooperation also takes place through participation in two major annual data protection conferences: a European Conference that gathers data protection authorities from the EU Member States and the Council of Europe, and an International conference attended by a wide range of data protection experts, both from the public and private sectors.

References[edit]

Legal texts[edit]

EDPS materials[edit]

Other relevant materials[edit]