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Guernsey establishes fintech and digital oversight group

16 October 2015

Leading business figures have teamed up with the Guernsey Government to establish the Fintech and Digital Oversight Group (FDOG).

Establishing the group was a key recommendation of PwC's strategic report, commissioned by the Island's Commerce and Employment Department, into the future of fintech in Guernsey and the opportunities that may exist.

Guernsey Government's Chief Information Officer Colin Vaudin said FDOG provided a forum to further identify, develop and promote Guernsey as a leading jurisdiction for fintech and digital businesses.

"We have seen significant growth in these sectors, which reinforces Guernsey's position as a well-regulated jurisdiction with robust data protection legislation that meet, and in some cases exceed, the EU Data Adequacy requirement," he said.

FDGO's first meeting included discussion around Guernsey's position as a secure and trusted location for data storage, with strong privacy safeguards, which allow it to lawfully process data from multiple jurisdictions including the US and EU. Timing of the meeting also allowed the group to discuss the landmark judgment of the European Court of Justice, ending the US Safe Harbour scheme.

The Safe Harbour Decision, adopted by the European Commission in 2000, had been one of the main legal mechanisms for the transfer of personal data from Europe to the United States for the past 15 years. Now that the decision has been declared invalid, it cannot be used to render these transfers of personal data lawful.

The European Court's decision is based on the Edward Snowden leaks. Facebook Ireland had been transferring the personal data of its users in Europe to Facebook USA. The leaks revealed that Facebook USA's data is capable of being accessed by US security agencies in the course of mass and indiscriminate surveillance. Further, the European Court identified that the US has no independent authority capable of verifying that such access to personal data is strictly necessary under the Safe Harbour Scheme.

In contrast, Guernsey's legislation ensures that sufficient checks and balances are placed, not only on the processing of data, but also on official requests for disclosure of information. For example, requests for disclosure may be made through the Royal Court or by off-Island authorities through Guernsey's Attorney General, HM Procureur. This process differs significantly from many other jurisdictions, which may be through a ministerial process.

It means Guernsey places itself as a truly secure, robust and trusted jurisdiction for personal data storage, with significant protection and a strong level of data privacy for individuals and compliance standards for business.

Stephen Ozanne, Senior Associate at AO Hall and member of FDOG, said: "The European Court's decision is a particular concern for businesses that collect large amounts of personal data in relation to European citizens, such as employee and customer data, and store that data digitally in the US. Guernsey offers a solution as an ideal location to store personal data, with its state of the art off-island internet connectivity, existing high capacity data hosting services and a data protection regime that meets international standards."

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