Interview with Dr. Simon Assion of Bird&Bird LLP

2020-05-22, by Julia Bialek, Head of GDPR Conference, EIPS
simon assion

Mr. Assion, could you briefly introduce yourself?

I am a lawyer, working at the law firm Bird & Bird. I specialise on all fields of information and technology law, including data protection.

I am also a blogger and passionate about social media. I´ve been a netizen from my early childhood on, and still am.

What do you currently see as the most important data protection issue?

Well, there are lots of issues, but the most pressing one is that our law is not as good as it could be.

On the one hand, I see many new technologies emerging, such as neuronal networks, the internet of things or biometric analysis of data. I also see dire need to put these technologies into practice as soon as possible, especially with regard to the coronavirus crisis. And on the other hand, I see a data protection law that is, in essence, still following concepts of the 1980s, and that is not ready to meet its new challenges. We have failed to re-think data protection when we had the chance. But we can do better next time.

How do you assess the evaluation of the GDPR, which is currently taking place in the EU Parliament?

I hope the evaluation will be critical and therefore fruitful, and not an exercise where EU institutions pat each other´s backs. The GDPR has some strengths, but some of its concepts have clearly not worked. Such problems should be named without hesitance, and then resolved.

As they say in the compliance trainings: Plan-Do-Check-Act. In other words, after the evaluation there should be a reform.

In times of Corona, what do you think companies should at least ensure right now?

First of all, Covid-19 means that companies have to meet two key challenges: Protect the health of their employees, especially of those belonging to risk groups, and to maintain the operationality of the company. Both tasks are very challenging, and have required measures such as going into full “home office mode” within a few weeks or implementing new hygiene measures.

For data protection professionals, I think the best approach is to make sure that data protection issues do not get in the way of these two extremely important tasks. This is possible, but not always easy.

Thank you for the interview, Dr. Simon Assion.