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Greece: The new data protection law raises concerns

By EDRi · November 6, 2019

On 29 August 2019, the much awaited new Greek data protection law came into force. Τhis law (4624/2019), implements both the provisions of the EU Law Enforcement Directive (LED, 2016/680) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into national level. However, since the first days after the law was adopted, a lot of criticism was voiced concerning the lack of conformity of its provisions with the GDPR.

The Greek data protection law was adopted following the Εuropean Commission’s decision of July 2019 to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for not transposing the LED on time. Thus, the national authorities acted fast in order to adopt a new data protection law. Unfortunately, the process was rushed through. As a result, the new data protection law suffers from important shortcomings and includes Articles that are challenging the provisions of the LED or even the GDPR.

In September 2019, Greek EDRi observer Homo Digitalis, together with a Greek consumer protection organisation EKPIZO, sent a common request to the Hellenic data protection authority (DPA) asking it to issue an Opinion on the conformity of the Greek law with the provisions of the LED and the GDPR. The DPA issued a press statement in early October 2019 announcing that it will come up with an Opinion in due time. Moreover, on 24 October 2019; Homo Digitalis filed a new complaint to the European Commission regarding the provisions of the Greek data protection law that are challenging the EU data protection regime.

Moreover, in order to acquire a thorough view on the Greek law, Homo Digitalis reached out to one of the most prominent privacy and data protection law experts in Greece, Professor Lilian Mitrou, who kindly shared her thoughts on the positive and one negative aspects of the new data protection law.

Professor Mitrou states that, on the positive side, the Greek legislator has introduced further limitations to the processing of sensitive data (genetic data, biometric data or data concerning health). Thus, according to the Article 23 of the new Greek law, the processing of genetic data for health and life insurances is expressly prohibited. “In this respect the Greek law, by stipulating prohibition on the use of genetic findings in the sphere of insurance, precludes the risk of results of genetic diagnosis being used to discriminate against people,” she says.

However, a strong point of criticism relates to the provisions concerning the purpose alienation. The Greek law introduces very wide and vague exceptions from the purpose limitation principle that prohibits the further use of data for incompatible purposes. “For example, private entities are allowed to process personal data for preventing threats against national or public security upon request of a public entity. Serious concerns are raised also with regard to the limitations of the data subjects’ rights,” Professor Mitrou points out.

She reminds that the Greek legislator “has made extensive use of the limitations permitted by Article 23 of the GDPR to restrict the right to information, the right to access and the right to rectification and erasure”. However, these restrictions have been adopted without fully complying with the safeguards provided in Article 23, para 2 GDPR. Moreover, the Greek law introduces provisions that allow the data controller not to erase data upon request of the data subject, in case the controller has reason to believe that erasure would adversely affect legitimate interests of the data subject. Thus, the data controller is allowed by the Greek legislator to substitute the will of the data subject.

“The Greek law has not respected the GDPR as standard borderline and has (mis)used ‘opening clauses’ and Member State discretion not to enhance but to reduce the level of data protection,” Professor Mitrou concludes.

Homo Digitalis

Professor Lilian Mitrou

The data protection law 4624/2019 (only in Greek 29.08.2019)

Official Request to the Hellenic Data Protection Authority for the issuance of legal opinion on Law 4624/2019 (20.09.2019)

Homo Digitalis on a seminar discussion regarding Law 4624/2019 (24.09.2019)

Homo Digitalis’ complaint to the European Commission against the new data protection law 4624/2019 (24.10.2019)

(Contribution by Eleftherios Chelioudakis, EDRi observer Homo Digitalis, Greece)