Italy to Increase Privacy, Data Protection Enforcement

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By Eric J. Lyman

Italy’s privacy regulator has signaled that online and other companies should expect stronger privacy and data security oversight and enforcement, privacy attorneys told Bloomberg BNA.

Cyberattacks cost companies in Italy as much as 9 billion euros ($10.1 billion) in 2016, Antonello Soro, the head of Italy’s privacy office, said in a June 6 address to both houses of Parliament, government officials and President Sergio Mattarella. Less than 20 percent of companies take adequate steps to protect their data assets, he said. The privacy office will require that companies adopt data security safeguards, Soro said.

Rocco Panetta, a Rome-based attorney at NCTM law firm, told Bloomberg BNA that “going forward, confronting the privacy risks that come with data breaches and cyberattacks will be a priority” for the privacy regulator.

Warning Shot to Web Giants

Soro put multinational digital companies in the spotlight during the address. The “Big Brothers” of the internet wield the power to “focus their influence on any one of us,” he said, specifically citing Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Facebook Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. The companies have a “gigantic wealth of knowledge” about their consumers and represent a challenge for privacy regulators, Soro said.

The privacy office will closely monitor activities of the big internet companies, and set up rules and to crack down on abuses when warranted, he said.

Panetta said Soro’s comments could be seen as a warning shot to the big digital companies. “This is Soro’s way of saying, ‘we’re watching, we’re paying attention, and if the proper steps aren’t taken, then sanctions will follow,’” he said.

Paolo Balboni, founding partner at ICT Legal Consulting and president of the European Privacy Association, told Bloomberg BNA that “more than ever, we are seeing a connection between big data, technology, and privacy rights.” This will lead to a “boom in the coming years” in engagement and enforcement by the privacy office, Balboni said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Rome at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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