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EU study frowns over data breach notification rules

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A new EU study has identified risk prioritisation, enforcement and resources as key issues in applying data breach notification rules.

ENISA, the EU’s cyber-security agency, launched its investigation on data breach notification rules against a backdrop of steadily rising incident of personal information disclosure breaches.

The agency identified key concerns from both telecom operators and the Data Protection Authorities (DPA) in applying a recent ePrivacy Directive (2002/58/EC) that applied breach notification rules to the electronic communication sector.

The agency hopes the research will help to develop best practice on breach notification as well as informing ministerial decisions on whether EU data breach disclosure rules first applied to telcos ISPs ought to extended to financial service firms and other sectors of the economy.

Key concerns raised by telecom operators and DPAs interviewed by ENISA include:

  • Risk Prioritisation – Interested parties want breaches categorised according to risk levels to avoid ‘notification fatigue’. Graded responses should be applied depending an the level of risk. A one size fits all approach would be counterproductive.
  • Communication Channels – Operators wanted assurances that applying by breach notification rules and reporting slips would not result in damaging their brands. The concern is that those that report problems, in compliance with the rules, will be "punished" by earning a reputation for poor security while those that do nothing will avoid tarnishing their reputation.
  • Resources -  Several regulatory authorities have other priorities beyond the handling of breach notification and there were concerns this could lead to over-stretching of resources, leading to possible problems in enforcement and other areas.
  • Reporting Delay - The report identified a split between service providers and regulators on deadlines for reporting breaches. Regulators want short deadlines whereas service providers wanted to be able to focus their resources on solving the problem, before they dealt with the regulatory fallout of any breach.
  • Content of Notifications - Another area of disagreement. Operators want to make sure the notification content avoided unduly alarming customers, who might be inclined to think the worst about any breach. Regulators, meanwhile, advocated complete transparency.

ENISA intends to use its research to develop guidelines on best practice for data breach notification, as well as analysing the possibility for extending the general obligation of data breach notification to other sectors, such as the financial sector, health care and small businesses.

The issue will be discussed at an ENISA-organised workshop in Brussels on 24 January.

The full report can be found here. ®

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