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Sam Jungyun Choi is an associate in the technology regulatory group in the London office. Her practice focuses on European data protection law and new policies and legislation relating to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, online platforms, digital health products and autonomous vehicles. She also advises clients on matters relating to children’s privacy and policy initiatives relating to online safety.

Sam advises leading technology, software and life sciences companies on a wide range of matters relating to data protection and cybersecurity issues. Her work in this area has involved advising global companies on compliance with European data protection legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK Data Protection Act, the ePrivacy Directive, and related EU and global legislation. She also advises on a variety of policy developments in Europe, including providing strategic advice on EU and national initiatives relating to artificial intelligence, data sharing, digital health, and online platforms.

In 2022, the European Union announced the creation of Digital Partnerships with three Asian countries: Japan, South Korea and Singapore. This is in line with the EU’s Digital Compass strategy which seeks to make the European Union the most connected continent by 2030. The European Commission is expanding its connections between Europe and the rest of the world to address the digital divide and further develop a sustainable digital economy with trusted partners.

Below we set out the key points from the Digital Partnerships that the European Commission has announced with Japan, South Korea and Singapore, respectively.

EU-Japan Digital Partnership

During the EU-Japan Summit organised on May 12, 2022, the European Union and Japan concluded the EU-Japan Digital Partnership, the first digital cooperation initiative to advance economic growth and provide a safe and inclusive space to solve digital issues. This effort furthers the “Data Free Flow with Trust” agenda, aimed at facilitating safe and secure cross-border data flows.

The EU-Japan Partnership will also focus on the following areas:

  • 5G/6G technologies;
  • Ethical considerations for Artificial Intelligence (“AI”);
  • Global supply chains in the semiconductor industry;
  • Green data infrastructures and data innovation;
  • Development of digital skills for private and public sectors; and
  • Facilitation of digital trade and application of global interoperable standards.

As part of the common vision, the Digital Partnership identified a number of key action items, as follows:

  • Collaborating on the development of innovative technologies through research;
  • Implementing concrete pilot projects in cutting-edge areas such as AI and digital identity;
  • Establishing mechanisms for international collaboration and common approaches to digital transformation; and
  • Developing common principles and rules through regulatory cooperation on key technology enablers for digital trade.

All the above will reflect the highest standards of data protection and follow the objectives set out by the EU-Japan mutual adequacy arrangement. The implementation of the EU-Japan Digital Partnership will start in 2023 and the countries will review their targets and progress on an annual basis.

EU-South Korea Digital Partnership

On November 28, 2022, the European Union and the Republic of Korea launched a new Digital Partnership to boost the cooperation between the two countries in the digital field. This collaboration will mainly focus on:

  • Semiconductors;
  • Next generation mobile networks;
  • Quantum technology;
  • High Performing Computing (“HPC”);
  • Cybersecurity;
  • AI;
  • Digital platforms and standardization; and
  • Data and digital skills.

The key action items from the EU-Korea Digital Partnership include:

  • Engaging in collaborative research activities, facilitating access to, and participation in, international standardisation relating to emerging technologies in the digital sector.
  • The sharing of information on: (i) cybersecurity threats and other aspects of cybersecurity, (ii) data-related laws and systems, which build on the existing adequacy decision that the European Commission granted to Korea (and ensuring data free flow of data between Korea and the EU) and working towards identifying commonalities between their existing regulatory approaches, (iii) views on a 6G roadmap and future 6G spectrum needs, (iv) the laws and systems aimed at the development and global use of trustworthy and human-centric AI (e.g., definitions, use cases, high risk AI applications, and response measures) and coordinating positions on AI governance, (v) platform policies, and (vi) approaches to protectionist measures in the digital space.
  • The Digital Partnership will also establish a Korea-EU forum for semiconductor researchers to (i) discuss and share information on the latest technologies and trends, (ii) identify gaps and potential disruptions to the global supply chain, and (iii) explore potential opportunities for international standardisation of trusted chips and chip security.

EU-Singapore Digital Partnership

The European Union and Singapore announced on December 15, 2022 a new partnership that will focus on the digital sector and its issues. The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership will be formally signed and launched in 2023 and aims at reinforcing existing relationships between the European Union and Singapore in the digital realm to achieve sustainable economic growth. The range of digital issues the collaboration will focus on are:

  • Trade facilitation;
  • Trusted data flows and data innovation;
  • Digital trust and standards;
  • Digital skills for workers;
  • Digital transformation of businesses and public services; and
  • Emerging technologies (e.g. 5G/6G, AI and digital identities).

In contrast to the other partnerships, the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership is the first one to agree on the development and application of Digital Trade Principles (“Principles”). These Principles are designed to provide a common framework for digital strategies, which will in turn be used contribute to the ongoing OECD discussions on establishing rules regarding electronic commerce.

What are the next steps?

In announcing these Digital Partnerships, EU Commissioner, Thierry Breton mentioned that these Digital Partnerships are likely to:

  • impact recent EU proposals, such as the EU Chips Act or AI Act; and
  • help achieve interoperability between the EU and Asia, as the EU Commission and ASEAN countries continue to cooperate in the digital space.

As mentioned above, all three Digital Partnerships will be formally launched in 2023. We expect that the Digital Partnerships will be used as a strategic pathfinder for closer region-to-region digital connectivity and to develop enhanced cooperation with other ASEAN countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, among others.

If you would like to learn more about these Digital Partnerships, or how Covington could help you participate in related policy initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Continue Reading EU Digital Partnerships with Asia: A New Path Towards Enhanced Digital Collaboration and Opportunities

Facial recognition technology (“FRT”) has attracted a fair amount of attention over the years, including in the EU (e.g., see our posts on the European Parliament vote and CNIL guidance), the UK (e.g., ICO opinion and High Court decision) and the U.S. (e.g., Washington state and NTIA guidelines). This post summarizes two recent developments in this space: (i) the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”)’s announcement of a £7.5-million fine and enforcement notice against Clearview AI (“Clearview”), and (ii) the EDPB’s release of draft guidelines on the use of FRT in law enforcement.

I. ICO Fines Clearview AI £7.5m

In the past year, Clearview has been subject to investigations into its data processing activities by the French and Italian authorities, and a joint investigation by the ICO and the Australian Information Commissioner. All four regulators held that Clearview’s processing of biometric data scraped from over 20 billion facial images from across the internet, including from social media sites, breached data protection laws.

On 26 May 2022, the ICO released its monetary penalty notice and enforcement notice against Clearview. The ICO concluded that Clearview’s activities infringed a number of the GDPR and UK GDPR’s provisions, including:

  • Failing to process data in a way that is fair and transparent under Article 5(1)(a) GDPR. The ICO concluded that people were not made aware or would not reasonably expect their images to be scraped, added to a worldwide database, and made available to a wide range of customers for the purpose of matching images on the company’s database.
  • Failing to process data in a way that is lawful under the GDPR. The ICO ruled that Clearview’s processing did not meet any of the conditions for lawful processing set out in Article 6, nor, for biometric data, in Article 9(2) GDPR.
  • Failing to have a data retention policy and thus being unable to ensure that personal data are not retained for longer than necessary under Article 5(1)(e) GDPR. There was no indication as to when (or whether) any images are ever removed from Clearview’s database.
  • Failing to provide data subjects with the necessary information under Article 14 GDPR. According to the ICO’s investigation, the only way in which data subjects could obtain that information was by contacting Clearview and directly requesting it.
  • Impeding the exercise of data subject rights under Articles 15, 16, 17, 21 and 22 GDPR. In order to exercise these rights, data subjects needed to provide Clearview with additional personal data, by providing a photograph of themselves that can be matched against the Clearview Database.
  • Failing to conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (“DPIA”) under Article 35 GDPR. The ICO found that Clearview failed at any time to conduct a DPIA in respect of its processing of the personal data of UK residents.


Continue Reading Facial Recognition Update: UK ICO Fines Clearview AI £7.5m & EDPB Adopts Draft Guidelines on Use of FRT by Law Enforcement

            On April 28, 2022, Covington convened experts across our practice groups for the Covington Robotics Forum, which explored recent developments and forecasts relevant to industries affected by robotics.  Sam Jungyun Choi, Associate in Covington’s Technology Regulatory Group, and Anna Oberschelp, Associate in Covington’s Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice Group, discussed global regulatory trends that affect robotics, highlights of which are captured here.  A recording of the forum is available here until May 31, 2022.

Trends on Regulating Artificial Intelligence

            According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development  Artificial Intelligence Policy Observatory (“OECD”), since 2017, at least 60 countries have adopted some form of AI policy, a torrent of government activity that nearly matches the pace of modern AI adoption.  Countries around the world are establishing governmental and intergovernmental strategies and initiatives to guide the development of AI.  These AI initiatives include: (1) AI regulation or policy; (2) AI enablers (e.g., research and public awareness); and (3) financial support (e.g., procurement programs for AI R&D).  The anticipated introduction of AI regulations raises concerns about looming challenges for international cooperation.

Continue Reading Robotics Spotlight: Global Regulatory Trends Affecting Robotics

On 22 September 2021, the UK Government published its 10-year strategy on artificial intelligence (“AI”; the “UK AI Strategy”).

The UK AI Strategy has three main pillars: (1) investing and planning for the long-term requirements of the UK’s AI ecosystem; (2) supporting the transition to an AI-enabled economy across all sectors and regions

On 25 November 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on European Data Governance (“Data Governance Act”).  The proposed Act aims to facilitate data sharing across the EU and between sectors, and is one of the deliverables included in the European Strategy for Data, adopted in February 2020.  (See our previous blog here for a summary of the Commission’s European Strategy for Data.)  The press release accompanying the proposed Act states that more specific proposals on European data spaces are expected to follow in 2021, and will be complemented by a Data Act to foster business-to-business and business-to-government data sharing.The proposed Data Governance Act sets out rules relating to the following:
  • Conditions for reuse of public sector data that is subject to existing protections, such as commercial confidentiality, intellectual property, or data protection;
  • Obligations on “providers of data sharing services,” defined as entities that provide various types of data intermediary services;
  • Introduction of the concept of “data altruism” and the possibility for organisations to register as a “Data Altruism Organisation recognised in the Union”; and
  • Establishment of a “European Data Innovation Board,” a new formal expert group chaired by the Commission.

Conditions for reuse of public sector data (Chapter II, Articles 3-8)

Chapter II of the Data Governance Act would impose conditions on public-sector bodies when they make certain protected data that they hold available for re-use.  These provisions apply to data held by public-sector bodies that are protected on grounds of commercial or statistical confidentiality, intellectual property rights, or personal data protection.  The Act does not impose new obligations on public-sector bodies to allow re-use of data and does not release them from their existing legal obligations with respect to data.  But if public-sector bodies do make protected data available for re-use, they must comply with the conditions set out in Chapter II.

Specifically, the Act prohibits public-sector bodies from granting exclusive rights in data or restricting the availability of data for re-use by entities other than the parties to such exclusive agreements, with limited derogations.  In addition, if a public-sector body grants or refuses access for the re-use of data, it must ensure that the conditions for such access (or refusal) are non-discriminatory, proportionate, and objectively justified, and must make those conditions publicly available. The Act also provides that public bodies “shall” impose conditions “that preserve the functioning of the technical systems” used to process such data, and authorizes the Commission to adopt implementing acts declaring that third countries to which such data may be transferred provide IP and trade secret protections that are “essentially equivalent” to those in the EU.

In addition, where specific EU acts establish that certain non-personal data categories held by public-sector bodies are  “highly sensitive,” such data may be subject to restrictions on cross-border transfers, as specified by the Commission through delegated acts.

Obligations on “providers of data sharing services” (Chapter III, Articles 9-14)

Chapter III of the Act introduces new rules for the operation of data intermediaries, termed “providers of data sharing services”.  Specifically, it would establish a notification and compliance framework for providers of the following data sharing services:

  • Intermediation services between data holders and data users, which include platforms or databases enabling the exchange or joint exploitation of data, such as industry data spaces;
  • Intermediation services between data subjects that seek to make their personal data available and potential data users; and
  • “Data cooperative” services that support individuals or SMEs to negotiate terms and conditions for data processing.

The Act set out several requirements that providers of these data sharing services would need to comply with, including:

  • Notifying the relevant EU Member State authority of its intent to provide such services;
  • Appointing a legal representative in one of the Member States, if the company is not established within the EU;
  • Not using the data collected for other purposes, and using any metadata only for the development of that service;
  • Placing its data sharing service in a “separate legal entity” from its other services;
  • Having in place adequate security safeguards; and
  • Imposing a fiduciary duty towards data subjects to act in their best interests.


Continue Reading The European Commission publishes a proposal for a Regulation on European Data Governance (the Data Governance Act)

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