The Data Protection Authority after 25 May: a sleeping privacy watchdog

Before the GDPR came into force last year, there was a lot of anxiety in the European business world about the anticipated major repercussions. Companies that were not yet GDPR compliant feared the sky-high fines that could amount to 4% of global business revenue. Fear, panic and above all: a lot of confusion. But when the calendar finally reached the dreaded date of May 25 – and not even half of Belgian companies were ready – the strict sanctions failed to materialise. At least in Belgium. Because what turned out? The Data Protection Authority, or DPA, was not yet able to take steps because it did not yet have an executive committee. In other words, the organisation that had the authority to detect and punish potential infringements could not actually do much. Which is why things have stayed fairly quiet in Belgium, in the past 11 months, in the field of GDPR. That was undoubtedly a relief for the many companies that made use of this 'calm before the storm' to take care of their privacy related affairs without excessive concern. But that calm is now coming to an end.

DPA chairman: "The time of 'sit back and relax' is over"

The five official directors of the DPA were sworn in on 24 April. It's the end of a quiet grace period in which the authority functioned as a 'sleeping watchdog'. And the privacy watchdog is now more than awake. According to the new chairman David Stevens, the GBA is planning to show its teeth. In an article in De Tijd, Stevens has stated the following: "The time of 'sit back and relax' is over. Belgian companies dragged their feet somewhat with the introduction of the European data protection rules, because the DPA did not yet have an executive committee." The data protection authority is now ready to show its teeth Companies that are not yet operating in full compliance with the GDPR have been warned: the DPA is now up to speed.

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