New privacy rules coming into effect

Companies and agencies will need to meet EU regulations in 2018

Privacy will increase substantially as companies and other entities operating in the Czech Republic will be facing stricter rules on the protection of personal data. Leaks of personal data will face higher fines than currently apply. Companies will be forbidden from using personal data to target unsolicited advertisements without someone's express permission.

The new EU rules will also apply to government offices, regional offices, schools and hospitals. Member states including the Czech Republic have until May 6, 2018 to transpose the regulations. The regulations should be in effect across the EU on May 25, 2018.

One stumbling block for companies to get ready is that the Czech Republic has postponed adopting the EU regulation into Czech law until after the October elections, so some specific details are not clear. The large part of the law, though, will have to mirror the EU regulation which is already published, so companies can get started on the most complex parts.

Experts say that implementing the rules will be more difficult and more expensive than the recent electronic sales registration (EET) imposed on many businesses by the Czech Finance Ministry. Large companies such a banks and mobile operators may have to spend hundreds of millions of crowns on increased security, and smaller companies may have to invest hundreds of thousands of crowns.

Lawyers say that firms should start to get acquainted with the law and begin to prepare for it, otherwise they may not be ready by the time the regulations take effect. Tereza Šamanová from the EU team of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SPČR) told daily Hospodářské noviny that medium-size businesses in particular need to get acquainted with their new responsibilities under the rules.

Fines for extreme mistakes in protecting privacy can reach up to Kč 540 million or 4 percent of the company's annual turnover, whichever amount is higher. A company or other entity must also notify the state within 72 hours and contact the affected clients or employees.

Some companies and government agencies have already started to separate data that it needs to retain from other data that it no longer makes sense to keep. Sensitive data then must either be encrypted or made anonymous so individuals cannot be identified. Firms have to chose a specialized company to ensure they comply with the regulations. It can take large firms more than a year, while for small firms it would only be a few months.

Companies and government offices that deal with large amounts of data will also have to have a data protection trustee to ensure compliance. This will also affect small companies if they handle data for thousands of people.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, praised the EU regulation when it was approved. “These new pan-European rules are good for citizens and good for businesses. Citizens and businesses will profit from clear rules that are fit for the digital age, that give strong protection and at the same time create opportunities and encourage innovation in a European Digital Single Market. And harmonised data protection rules for police and criminal justice authorities will ease law enforcement cooperation between Member States based on mutual trust, contributing to the European Agenda for Security,” she said at the time.

An EU press release stated that the reform will allow people to regain control of their personal data. Two-thirds of Europeans according to a Eurobarometer survey stated they are concerned about not having complete control over the information they provide online.

Seven Europeans out of 10 worry about the potential use that companies may make of the information disclosed. The data protection reform will strengthen the right to data protection, which is a fundamental right in the EU, and allow them to have trust when they give their personal data, the EU stated.

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