Hamburg’s state government has been formally warned against using Zoom over data protection concerns.
The German state’s data protection agency (DPA) took the step of issuing a public warning yesterday, writing in a press release that the Senate Chancellory’s use of the popular videoconferencing tool violates the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since user data is transferred to the U.S. for processing.
The DPA’s concern follows a landmark ruling (Schrems II) by Europe’s top court last summer which invalidated a flagship data transfer arrangement between the EU and the U.S. (Privacy Shield), finding U.S. surveillance law to be incompatible with EU privacy rights.
The fallout from Schrems II has been slow to manifest — beyond an instant blanket of legal uncertainty. However, a number of European DPAs are now investigating the use of U.S.-based digital services because of the data transfer issue, in some instances publicly warning against the use of mainstream U.S. tools like Facebook and Zoom because user data cannot be adequately safeguarded when it’s taken over the pond.
German agencies are among the most proactive in this respect. But the EU’s data protection supervisor is also investigating the bloc’s use of cloud services from U.S. giants Amazon and Microsoft over the same data transfer concern.
The agency asserts that use of Zoom by the public body does not comply with the GDPR’s requirement for a valid legal basis for processing personal data, writing: “The documents submitted by the Senate Chancellery on the use of Zoom show that [GDPR] standards are not being adhered to.”
The DPA initiated a formal procedure earlier, via a hearing, on June 17, 2021, but says the Senate Chancellory failed to stop using the videoconferencing tool. Nor did it provide any additional documents or arguments to demonstrate compliance usage. Hence, the DPA taking the step of a formal warning, under Article 58 (2) (a) of the GDPR.