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Case Studies

GDPR fines, breaches survey

Over 59,000 data breach notifications have been reported across the European Economic Area whether from the public or private sectors, since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018 Europe-wide, according to a law firm’s GDPR Data Breach survey.

The Netherlands, Germany and the UK topped the table in the report with about 15,400, 12,600, and 10,600 reported breaches respectively. The lowest numbers of reported breaches were made in Liechtenstein, Iceland and Cyprus with 15, 25 and 35 reported breaches.

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 21st respectively on a reported fine per capita basis. Greece, Italy and Romania reported the fewest number of breaches per capita.

Ross McKean, a partner at DLA Piper specialising in cyber and data protection, said: “The GDPR completely changes the compliance risk for organizations which suffer a personal data breach due to revenue based fines and the potential for US style group litigation claims for compensation. 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 eight months since the GDPR came into force.”

To date 91 fines have been reported. Not all of these relate to personal data breach and several relate to other infringements of GDPR. The highest GDPR fine imposed to date is 50 million euros, against Google on January 21. 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, DLA Piper points out.

A German Land (regional-level) data protection regulator fined a company for failing to hash employee passwords, resulting in a security breach. A fine in Austria was against the operation of an ‘unlawful CCTV system which was deemed excessive for its partial surveillance of a public sidewalk’.

Sam Millar, a partner at DLA Piper specialising in cyber and large scale investigations said: “The regulators have already started to flex their muscles with 91 GDPR fines imposed to date but the fine against Google is a landmark moment and is notable partly because it is not related to personal data breach. 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.”


John Andrews, VP at Centrify, an IT access management product company, says: “These new statistics into European fines for breaches are really impactful. We are finally seeing GDPR begin to take effect, however it is important to note that these figures have been obtained after the data protection law came into effect. It is worrying to think just how many consumers were impacted on a daily basis before these laws were introduced and how many fines would have been issued as a result of those breaches.

“We should be using this as a means of educating ourselves about the dangers of breaches and impact they can have. It is vital that companies begin to protect their credentials or adopt a zero trust privilege posture before they suffer a breach rather than acting after the damage is done.”


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