The UK Data Protection Authority Clarifies the Status of the BCRs It Approves

by WilmerHale

Brexit raises critical issues regarding the future transfer of personal data outside of the EU, not least as to the role of the UK Data Protection Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”), and as to its relationship with the remaining EU Member States’ Data Protection Authorities (“DPAs”). In this context, the ICO posted a blog entry on November 20 to clarify the status of the Binding Corporate Rules (“BCRs”) it may approve prior to Brexit. BCRs are internal rules that define a company’s global policy regarding international transfers of personal data within the same corporate group. Companies can use BCRs to transfer personal data to entities located outside the EU where EU DPAs have approved them. In this process, one authority called the “lead authority” handles the cooperation procedure amongst the other European Data Protection Authorities. Listed below are the most interesting bits of information the ICO provided in this blog post.

  • The ICO Has Played a Leading Role Regarding BCRs Applications. The ICO has approved about 25% of all BCRs approved across Europe (the list of ICO BCRs approvals is available here; European Commission figures are available here).
  • BCRs Approved by the ICO Will Remain Valid After Brexit. The ICO clarified that the BCRs it has approved will not be cancelled because of Brexit. It cannot, however, be excluded at this stage that some amendments (to be submitted for approval to other EU DPAs than the ICO) may be required in the aftermath of Brexit. The ICO will obviously no longer be able to approve any BCR applications after Brexit.
  • The ICO Is Still Working on BCRs Applications. The ICO confirmed that it will continue to review BCR applications even after the GDPR takes effect, on May 25, 2018. This is because the GDPR will apply in the UK before Brexit, which is currently expected to happen on March 30, 2019. The ICO said in its blog post that it is currently working on about 40 BCR applications at various stages of the process. The most recent BCRs approved by the ICO are dated February 22, 2017.
  • Companies Planning to Apply to The ICO For BCRs Should Ensure Their Application Aligns with The GDPR Rather Than with The Data Protection Directive. The ICO will ask companies that have already submitted their BCR applications to update them in light of the GDPR requirements. The ICO also invites companies that have already obtained approval for their BCRs to inform the ICO about the changes they make to comply with the GDPR.
  • Timing of BCRs Applications. The ICO said that BCR applications submitted from November 2017 will receive approval after May 2018. However, there is still uncertainty about the role of the ICO in the BCR approval process if such approval is not granted before Brexit, as well as on the transition of the ICO’s “lead authority” role to a different data protection authority in the EEA. These topics should be discussed early with the ICO and other relevant DPAs after filing an application for approval of BCRs.
  • The ICO Is Dedicating More Resources to BCRs Applications. The ICO has deployed extra staff to improve its BCR approval process and its timeliness. This is crucial as, last year, companies faced significant bottlenecks in the process because of the ICO’s limited staff resources allocated to BCR processing and review.
  • There Is Uncertainty Regarding the ICO’s Cooperation with Other DPAs After Brexit. The ICO has insisted that it will continue to work on BCRs with other DPAs. However, the other DPAs have so far not indicated how they intend to handle the ICO after Brexit. This will depend to a large extent on how hard Brexit is and on how UK data protection law and practice will be assessed by the remaining EU DPAs.
  • The Article 29 Working Party Is Updating the Guidance for BCRs Under the GDPR. We expect the new guidelines to be published by the end of 2017, potentially impacting BCRs currently under review by the ICO.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© WilmerHale | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


WilmerHale on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.