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Guernsey establishes a FinTech and Digital Oversight Group in time for landmark EU Data Protection judgment

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Tuesday 13 October 2015

In conjunction with leading business experts, the States of Guernsey has held its first meeting of the FinTech and Digital oversight group (FDOG). The Group was established following recommendations from PwC's strategic report, Commissioned by the Commerce and Employment Department (C&E). A key recommendation of the strategic report was to establish a business development group to target and manage potential opportunities.

The Group discussed the opportunities identified in the strategic report that make Guernsey a prime location for the developing FinTech and Digital sectors. This included Guernsey's position as a secure and trusted location for data storage, with strong privacy safeguards, which allow it to lawfully process data from multiple jurisdictions including the US and EU.

The timing of the meeting allowed the group to discuss the landmark judgment of the European Court of Justice, ending the US Safe Harbour scheme, a decision that was unthinkable only twelve months ago. The Safe Harbour Decision, adopted by the European Commission in 2000, had been one of the main legal mechanisms for the transfer of personal data from Europe to the United States for the past 15 years. Now that the Decision has been declared invalid, it cannot be used to render these transfers of personal data lawful.

The European Court's decision is based on the Edward Snowden leaks. Facebook Ireland had been transferring the personal data of its users in Europe to Facebook USA. The leaks revealed that Facebook USA's data is capable of being accessed by US security agencies in the course of mass and indiscriminate surveillance. Further, the European Court identified that the US has no independent authority capable of verifying that such access to personal data is strictly necessary under the Safe Harbour Scheme.

In contrast, the Bailiwick's legislation ensures that sufficient checks and balances are placed, not only on the processing of data, but also on official requests for disclosure of information.  For example, requests for disclosure may be made through the Royal Court or by off-island authorities through HM Procureur (Guernsey's Attorney General). This process differs significantly from many other jurisdictions, which may be through a ministerial process. Guernsey places itself as a truly secure, robust and trusted jurisdiction for personal data storage, with significant protection and a strong level of data privacy for individuals and compliance standards for business.

Stephen Ozanne, Senior Associate at AO Hall and member of FDOG said:

"The European Court's decision is a particular concern for businesses that collect large amounts of personal data in relation to European citizens, such as employee and customer data, and store that data digitally in the US. Guernsey offers a solution as an ideal location to store personal data, with its state of the art off-island internet connectivity, existing high capacity data hosting services and a data protection regime that meets international standards."

Nick Vermeulen, Partner at PwC and member of FDOG stated:

"Guernsey has progressive legislation in both Data Protection and Intellectual Property rights.The ability to aggregate data from a multitude of jurisdictions on the Island will mean that we are able to assist companies as they consider what the end of the Safe Harbour regime means for them. "

Colin Vaudin, States of Guernsey Chief Information Officer said:

"The FinTech and Digital Oversight Group provides a joint business and Government forum to further identify, develop and promote Guernsey as a leading jurisdiction for FinTech and Digital businesses.  We have seen significant growth in these sectors, which reinforces Guernsey's position as a well-regulated jurisdiction with robust data protection legislation that meet, and in some cases exceed, the EU Data Adequacy requirement.  In light of the recent EU ruling Guernsey is well situated to support businesses that are looking at the implications of the ruling on their businesses".

 

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