31.01.2020 -What impact does Brexit have on cross-border data flows?

What impact does Brexit have on cross-border data flows?

31.01.2020 - Following the referendum held in the United Kingdom in June 2016, the British government announced its decision to withdraw from the European Union (Brexit). The United Kingdom will leave the EU on 31 January 2020.

Cross-border transmission of personal data under the Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP)

Cross-border data transmission must comply with the provisions of Article 6 of the Data Protection Act (FADP). According to this article data may only be disclosed abroad if the receiving country has legislation guaranteeing an adequate level of data protection (Art. 6 para. 1 FADP) or if, in the absence of such legislation, it has other provisions or safeguards for ensuring an adequate level of protection (Art. 6 para. 2 letters a and g FADP). Under Article 31 para. 1 let. d FADP, the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) provides an opinion on whether a country’s level of protection is adequate to allow all data transfers to that country. This requires that the data receiver is subject to legislation ensuring a level of protection that is comparable with Swiss law, i.e. legislation that guarantees the rights of the data subjects, that respects the main principles of data protection and that provides for an independent supervisory authority. A list of countries complying with these requirements is published on the FDPIC website (Art. 7 DPO). This list is updated on a regular basis.

United Kingdom and Gibraltar

The UK and Gibraltar currently have an adequate level of data protection; for the moment the FDPIC has no grounds for changing their status on the country list. As regards the legal consequences of Brexit on the protection of personal data as of 1 February 2020, the British authority responsible for protecting personal data, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), states on its website that the UK will continue to guarantee a high level of personal data protection.

However, if the FDPIC decides to change the status of the UK or Gibraltar on its country list, businesses will be notified in due course so that they can prepare themselves, in particular by using standard contracts. 

The EU will decide by the end of 2020 whether the UK has an adequate level of data protection. The FDPIC is monitoring developments closely.

Last modification 21.11.2023

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