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Data transfers 'are a security minefield'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 10/09/13

General counsel of international businesses have had to learn a lot of new skills over the last decade, with computer literacy probably one of the most important as firms rely more and more on electronic counting devices that may or may not one day develop personalities of their own and revolt against their human overlords.

Potential singularities aside, one major concern in-house lawyers need to deal with at the moment is  the movement of data across national borders, a fairly common event for firms with offices in more than one country or connections with other businesses around the globe.

You might think that moving information from one place to another would be easier and safer online, making it less likely that any fun bandits will capture it in a Tin-Tin-esque adventure, and you'd probably be right.

However, the internet era has brought its own threats, as George Tsounis and Dan Charboneau of Epiq Systems recently explained in a blog for the Global Legal Post.

"There is the potential to violate national and international data transfer regulations and privacy laws. These risks are becoming more common as more countries implement privacy laws that regulate cross-border data transfers," the pair explained.

Naturally, for in-house lawyers keen to reduce the levels of risk their company is being exposed to, avoiding a breach of international law is high on their list of priorities.

Mr Tsounis and Mr Charboneau urged legal experts to keep abreast of the latest developments in data transfer protocol in order to do this, but suggested that problems will continue to arise until a set of international standards is produced.

"Companies with international operations must develop effective strategies to meet their current and future obligations related to international data transfer and data security best practices," they concluded.

Implementing a governance programme around this issue could be a good first step for general counsel keen to make sure their information is being dealt with securely.