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GDPR: 59,000 breach reports, 91 fines and counting

By Sara Barker
Thu 7 Feb 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

59,000 and counting – that’s the amount of data breach notifications that have been reported across the European Economic Area since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018.

That’s a conservative figure, according to February 2019 survey figures from law firm DLA Piper. It found that the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom topped the charts when it came to breach notifications (15,400 breaches; 12,600 breaches; and 10,600 breaches respectively).

The Netherlands, with 89.8 reported breaches per 100,000 people topped the list when the number of notifications were weighted against country populations, followed by Ireland and Denmark. 

Of the 26 EEA countries where breach notification data is available, the UK, Germany and France ranked tenth, eleventh and twenty-first respectively on a reported fine per capita basis. Greece, Italy and Romania reported the fewest number of breaches per capita.

Meanwhile, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Cyprus also reported the fewest breaches (15 breaches; 25 breaches; and 35 breaches respectively).

DLA Piper partner Ross McKean, who specialises in cyber and data protection, says GDPR transforms the compliance risk for organisations that suffer a data breach, because it hands down revenue-based fines.

“As we saw in the US when mandatory breach notification laws came into force, backed up by tough sanctions for not notifying, the GDPR is driving personal data breach out into the open. Our report confirms this with more than 59,000 data breaches notified across Europe in the first 8 months since the GDPR came into force,” says McKean.

So far 91 fines have been dealt to organisations under the GDPR – but not all of them relate to personal data breaches.

Google was fined €50 million earlier this year – the biggest fine to date under the GDPR.

“This was a French decision in relation to the processing of personal data for advertising purposes without valid authorisation, rather than a personal data breach,” says DLA Piper.

Other fines are lower in value, such as a €4,800 fine issued in Austria for the operation of an unlawful CCTV system which was deemed excessive for its partial surveillance of a public sidewalk. 

“Cyprus also reported four fines, with a total value of €11,500, and Malta reported a total of 17 fines, a surprisingly large number given the relatively small size of the country,” the report says.

DLA Piper partner Sam Millar says the regulators are just getting started.

“The fine against Google is a landmark moment and is notable partly because it is not related to personal data breach,” says Millar.

“We anticipate that regulators will treat data breach more harshly by imposing higher fines given the more acute risk of harm to individuals. We can expect more fines to follow over the coming year as the regulators clear the backlog of notifications."

Figures are from DLA Piper’s GDPR data breach survey: February 2019 report.

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