The GDPR contains specific rules for the transfer of personal data to countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA).263. In principle, personal data may only be transferred to countries outside the EEA if the country has an adequate level of protection. That level can be determined in a number of ways.
The European Commission can take a so-called adequacy decision. This means that the country in question has a level of protection comparable to that applied within the EEA. Currently, the European Commission made adequacy decisions with respect to Andorra, Argentina, Canada (commercial organisations), Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland, Uruguay and the United States of America (limited to the Privacy Shield framework) as providing adequate protection.
The Privacy Shield framework is an agreement between the EU and the USA about the level of protection of personal data. Via the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework (formerly: Safe Harbour), US companies can self-certify as to their standard of protection of personal data. Notwithstanding other requirements under the GDPR, personal data can be transferred to Privacy Shield certified companies without any further safeguards.
Personal data may also be transferred from the EEA to third countries outside of the EEA using Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC, also known as EU model clauses) adopted by the European Commission on the basis of the (previous) Data Protection Directive. These clauses (hereinafter: SCC) contractually ensure a high level of protection.
At the time this DPIA was written, Google used a combination of two measures: the SCC and the Privacy Shield.264 Google has since switched to only use SCCs for the transfer. G Suite (Enterprise) for Education customers in the EU can accept the SCC as a transfer instrument for personal data in Customer Data from Core Services.265 This choice is not available for personal data in Additional Services, Support Data or for Diagnostic Data. The transfer of those personal data from customers in
263 Articles 44 to 49 GDPR.
264 Google writes in a blog that its model clauses were approved by the data protection authorities in the EU, in December 2016. The approval decision can be found at:
https://cloud.google.com/files/2016-12-30_Common_Opinion_for_G-Suite.pdf Google blog URL: https://www.blog.google/products/google- cloud/eu-data-protection-authorities-confirm-compliance-google-cloud-commitments-international-data-flows/
265 As well as services identified as ‘Other Services’ in the G Suite Services Summary and services described in the Complementary Product Services provided under a separate agreement. These services are out of scope of this DPIA.
the Netherlands to Google’s cloud servers in the USA nonetheless takes place on the basis of SCC between Google Ireland and Google Inc in the USA.
Although both transfer instruments were legally valid until the Schrems-II ruling on 16 July 2020, and have been approved by the European Commission, at the time of completion of this report, there already were doubts about the future validity of these instruments for transfer to the US. Both instruments are the subject of proceedings before the European Court of Justice. Summarised briefly in this update, the Court ruled these agreements do not offer sufficient protection against the risks of interception of data in transit and mass surveillance in the United States. These risks have been revealed by whistle blower Edward Snowden.266
Figure 35:267 Google table data region selection
In response to a question about Google’s preparations for this ruling, Google indicated it can quickly adopt updated transfer mechanisms when offered by the European Commission, if both the Privacy Shield and the SCC were invalidated simultaneously or in short order.268In G Suite (Enterprise) for Education, Google allows customers to choose between storage in datacentres in the EU or in the USA with respect to Customer Data, from some Core Services. As shown in Figure 35 above, this choice covers Customer Data actively inputted in Calendar, Drive, Forms, Gmail, Google Docs,
266 In Case C 311/18, the European Court of Justice ruled on the transfer from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc. in the US on the basis of the Standard Contractual Clauses..
267 Idem. The information on this page is dynamic. This version was captured on 16 June 2020.
268 From responses provided by representatives of Google to SLM Microsoft Rijk during the course of this DPIA.
Sheets, Slides, Hangouts Chat, Keep, New Sites and Vault.269 This data region choice also applies to the backups.270
All other personal data, such as Diagnostic Data (including website and telemetry data) and authentication data relating to the Google Account may be processed in any of Google’s global data centres. Google explains on its site about its datacentres: “Rather than storing each user's data on a single machine or set of machines, we distribute all data — including our own — across many computers in different locations. We then chunk and replicate the data over multiple systems to avoid a single point of failure. We name these data chunks randomly, as an extra measure of security, making them unreadable to the human eye.”271
Google currently has 21 datacentres in total, of which five are located in Europe: in Dublin (Ireland), Eemshaven (Netherlands), Frederician (Denmark), Hamina (Finland) and St. Ghislaine (Belgium).272 Figure 36: Google map with data centres
Contractually Google only applies the G Suite DPA to Customer Data of the Core Services. The Customer Data can be routed via other locations during the transfer and can also be processed in other regions. However, Google encrypts all transit traffic data, and all data at rest.273 Technically, the routing of packets via the Internet works in such a way that the paths (and therefore locations) that will be followed cannot be determined in advance.
269 Google, What data is covered by a data retention policy?, URL:
271 Google datacenters, We safeguard your data, URL: https://www.google.com/about/datacenters/locations/
273 Google writes: “We automatically encrypt your data both in transit outside of physical boundaries not controlled by Google and at rest by default and provide numerous ways for you to control your own encryption keys and data access.” URL: https://cloud.google.com/security/compliance/government-public-sector
Legally, Google had to change its approach for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the USA after the Schrems-II ruling of the European Court of Justice.274 At the time of completion of this DPIA Google based the transfer of personal data in Customer Data from other Core Services, Features, the Additional Services, the Google Account, Technical Support Services and Other Related Services, as well as all Diagnostic Data on the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement. Google self-certified its compliance with this privacy regime. Since the Schrems-II ruling, Google only relies on Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC) for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the USA.
The European Court of Justice describes the risks of mass surveillance (bulk data collection) by U.S.
intelligence agencies under the surveillance programs PRISM and Upstream based on Section 702 FISA and based on E.O. 12333, and the lack of effective and enforceable rights for EU residents in the processing of those data by U.S. government agencies. In addition, Google may be ordered by U.S.
courts to grant law enforcement access to data stored in data centres in the EU. The U.S. CLOUD Act extends the jurisdiction of North American courts to all data under the control of U.S. companies, even if those data are stored in data centres outside the territory of the United States.
As explained by the EDPB and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) in their opinion on the CLOUD Act to the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament, transfers of personal data from the EU must comply with the Articles 6 (lawfulness of processing) and 49 (derogations for specific situations) of the GDPR. In case of an order based on the US CLOUD Act, the disclosure and transfer can only be valid if recognised by an international agreement between the EU and the USA.
The EDPB and EDPS write: "Unless a US CLOUD Act warrant is recognised or made enforceable on the basis of an international agreement, and therefore can be recognised as a legal obligation, as per Article 6(1)(c) GDPR, the lawfulness of such processing cannot be ascertained, without prejudice to exceptional circumstances where processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject on the basis of Article 6(1)(d) read in conjunction with Article 49(1)(f)."275
In their cover letter, the data protection authorities “emphasise the urgent need for a new generation of MLATs to be implemented, allowing for a much faster and secure processing of requests in practice. In order to provide a much better level of data protection, such updated MLATs should contain relevant and strong data protection safeguards such as, for example, guarantees based on the principles of proportionality and data minimisation.”276 Additionally, the EDPB and the EDPS refer to the ongoing negotiations about an international agreement between the EU and the US on cross-border access to electronic evidence for judicial cooperation in criminal matters and negotiating directives.277 In the G Suite DPA, Google contractually commits to maintaining certificates for ISO 27001, ISO 27017 and ISO 27018. Google will also produce SOC 2/3 audit reports during the term of the
274 European Court of Justice, C-311/18, Data Protection Commissioner versus Facebook Ireland Ltd and Maximillian Schrems (Schrems-II), 16 July 2020, ECLI:EU:C:2020:559, URL:
=&docid=228677&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=9812784 . See in particular par. 165 and 178-185.
275 Annex EDPB and EDPS joint response to US CLOUD Act, 10 July 2019, p. 8. URL:
276 Idem, cover letter.
277 Council Decision authorising the opening of negotiations, 6 June 2019, URL:
agreement.278 The 2018 SOC 3 report is publicly available without non-disclosure agreement.279 Google explains that this audit is not aimed at privacy, but at compliance with security principles.280