Philip Cao

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Addressing GDPR Challenges in Poland

4 min read

Joanna KarczewskaGDPR: An acronym and a buzzword that has set many of us into “alert mode.” Since it was set in motion more than two years ago, thousands of people worked hard to ensure their organizations were prepared by the set enforcement deadline of 25 May, 2018, and continue doing so. But among the good guys and gals, there were also some “louche” (a French adjective that means “shady” characters, and was used in CNIL’s video on GDPR. These are people who had no ethical problems in providing misleading guidance and wrong answers to the many questions concerning GDPR).

Unfortunately, Poland was among those countries where this phenomenon grew to be a danger to the whole idea of protection of personal data. Here are just a few examples of the consequences of the created havoc:

  • Hospitals refused to inform parents whether their children were admitted after a serious bus accident with many schoolchildren injured;
  • Teachers started calling out pupils by their assigned numbers instead of their names;
  • Closure of a cemetery, because some gravestones had names of living persons on them; and
  • Offers of special GDPR-compliant filing cabinets.

These situations were widely described and discussed on the internet in Poland, raising concern. To counteract this, in June this year, the Minister of Digital Affairs empowered Mr. Maciej Kawecki, the Director of the Department of Data Management at the Ministry, to create a special task force to deal with the worst absurdities. Mr. Kawecki is a top data protection specialist who is coordinating the work done in Poland to adapt Polish law to GDPR. The mission is very challenging; there are about 800 regulations that need to be revised. In the next few weeks, the Polish Parliament will debate the first package of legislative changes.

Mr. Kawecki posted a call for volunteers to work in the group. This proved to be a very sought-after, widely appreciated initiative, and the response was huge. From the several hundred candidates, 93 people were picked to work in five groups on issues concerning specific topics: health, education, finance/telecomms, public administration and general issues.

I had the pleasure to be selected to be a member of the education team. We come from a mix of different professions and different involvement in day-to-day school activities. This creates additional value as we have different perspectives and experience that enable us as a team to take a much broader look at GDPR issues.

In the first stage, we were asked to compile replies to seven especially pressing questions concerning schools. We came to the conclusion that each question should have two answers:

  1. A short one, of the “YES /NO” type with just a brief added comment, so that headmasters and headmistresses would know right away what they can or cannot do, and
  2. A long one, with legal reference to the applicable regulations concerning school and pre-school education and some practical advice for all concerned.

We already have noted our first success. Part of our work has been used in the GDPR guide for schools, just published by the Ministry of Education together with the Polish supervisory authority.

Creating a GDPR task force by the Ministry of Digital Affairs is a highly recommended approach. It gives the opportunity for data protection professionals to get involved in supporting GDPR compliance at the national level. It also creates opportunities for an exchange of knowledge and experience between practitioners and government officials in charge of developing regulations and recommendations. The Ministry intends to continue using our group to obtain practical and up-to-date information on issues and problems concerning GDPR implementation and to develop appropriate guidelines. This also gives us the opportunity to share our ideas and thoughts with our peers and to disseminate best GDPR practices to stakeholders both in the public and private sectors.

A good example of the usefulness of guidelines developed by official organizations are the “Guidelines on the protection of personal data in IT governance and IT management of EU institutions” published by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). These good practices are based on ISACA’s COBIT 5 and describe the data protection aspects related to the processing of personal data. With just a few minor changes that basically come down to replacing “EU institutions” with “data controllers,” this document can easily serve large and small organizations from the public and private sector in the European Union and outside in their efforts to achieve GDPR compliance.

Joanna Karczewska, CISA, ISACA GDPR Working Group

[ISACA Now Blog]


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