How to stay within European law when sub-contracting assessment services

John Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

Questionmark has recently published a white paper on assessment and European data protection. I’ve shared some material from the white paper in earlier posts on the Responsibilities of a Data Controller When Assessing Knowledge, Skills and Abilities and The 12 responsibilities of a data controller, part 1 and part 2.

Data Controller to Data ProcessorHere are some points to follow if you as an assessment sponsor (Data Controller) are contracting with a Data Processor to conduct assessment services that involve the Data Processor handling personal data. As always, this blog cannot give legal advice – please check with your lawyer on contractual issues.

For processors inside and outside Europe

1. You should have a contract with the Data Processor and if they use Sub-Processors (e.g. a data center), their contract with such Sub-Processors must follow data protection rules.

2. Processors should only process data under your direction.

3. You should define the nature and duration of the processing to be performed.

4. The Data Processor and its Sub-Processors must implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data against accidental or unlawful destruction or accidental loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure or access. See the white paper for more guidance on what measures are required.

5. You should have some capability to review or monitor the security of the processing, for instance by viewing reports or information from the processor.

6. If you need to delete data, you must be able to make this happen.

7. If there is a data leakage or other failure, you need to be kept informed.

8. Under some countries in Europe, e.g. Germany, data protection law also applies to encrypted personal data, even if the processor does not have access to the encryption key. If you are concerned about this, you need to ensure that any backup providers holding encrypted material are also signed up to data protection law.

9. When the contract is over, you need to ensure that data is returned or deleted.

10. Data protection law is likely to change in future (with some proposals in review at present), so your relationship with your Data Processors should allow the possibility of future updates.

For processors outside the European Economic Area

For any Data Processor or Sub-Processor who is outside the European Economic Area (and outside Canada and a few other countries), the safest procedure  is to use a set of clauses called the EU Model Clauses, a set of contractual clauses which cannot be modified and which sign up the processor to follow EU data protection legislation.

Another potential route if using US processors is to rely on the US Government Safe Harbor list.  However, particularly in Germany, there is concern that with Safe Harbor, so you need to do additional checking. And many stakeholders will increasingly expect processors outside Europe to sign up to the EU Model Clauses.  Microsoft have recently made their services compliant with these clauses, and we can expect other organizations to as well.

I hope this summary is interesting and helpful. If you want to learn more, please read our free-to-download white paper: Responsibilities of a Data Controller When Assessing Knowledge, Skills and Abilities [requires registration].

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