Norway Starts Requiring Data Breach Notification

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By Marcus Hoy

April 18 — The Norwegian Data Protection Authority recently said it will require companies to notify individuals whose personal data has been disclosed without their consent.

DPA Senior Adviser Eirin Oda Lauvset told Bloomberg BNA April 18 that Norwegian laws don't specify a general right for data subjects to be informed of breaches. According to the DPA, the new practice stemmed from cases heard by the nation's Privacy Appeals Board (PVN)—the appeals body for DPA decisions.

Norway's Personal Data Regulation provides that a controller who discovers that confidential personal information has been disclosed to unauthorized persons shall notify the DPA, Lauvset said. Meanwhile, the country's Personal Data Act states that the data subject shall be provided with information concerning possible disclosure of personal information, as well as the identity of the recipient.

“Neither of the provisions alone provides the data subject with a clear right to be informed if his or her information has been disclosed to someone who is unauthorized,” Lauvset said

Fundamental Right to Know

The PVN had found in multiple cases that a data controller has a duty to notify the affected persons, either individually or collectively. In its interpretation of existing law, the PVN concluded that the DPA is justified in imposing notification requirements on companies and other organizations. According to the PVN, individuals have a fundamental right know who is able to process and store their personal data and how this occurs.

The new practice, the DPA said, means that it can require data controllers to inform those concerned in the event of a breach.

The cases handled by the PVN concerned unauthorized disclosure of personal health data—some cases only involved patients' identification numbers or their weight. However, the PVN determined that notification to affected parties shouldn't only be determined by an assessment of whether the information can be misused or whether the person being notified could take any action to prevent misuse. Furthermore, the PVN's decisions also implied that the economic consequences of disclosure needn't be considered when notification obligations are imposed on the data controller.

Broader Scope

While the tribunal cases concerned personal health information, Lauvset said, the scope of those decisions extended further. “Firstly, the PVN said that to be informed of what happens to one's personal data, who gets handle and store it and how this occurs, is a fundamental privacy right” she said. “This should apply regardless of whether the information is health-related or other personal information. Secondly, the PVN said that it was not the specific information that was leaked that was deemed the most worthy of protection in these cases, rather, it was what could be deduced from the information,” Lauvset said.

“We believe that the tribunal's opinions in these cases are relevant as they can have a bearing in many types of contexts, which can make the overall data deserving of protection,” she said

The new practice would apply in cases of leaked personal information that can potentially be linked to individuals, Lauvset said. However, she added that the obligation wouldn't extend to leaks of fully anonymised data, which falls outside the scope of Norwegian data protection law.

“In some cases it will be take time before businesses of receive an order to inform those affected” the DPA said. “During this period, organizations should themselves judge whether they wish to inform individuals on their own initiative or wait until they are ordered to do so.” If organizations are in doubt over how they should proceed, or if they believe that aspects of the case suggest that the information should not be provided, it said, the DPA should be consulted.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Hoy in Copenhagen at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jimmy H. Koo at jkoo@bna.com