20 Jun

The Belgian DPA publishes its Annual Report 2023

2023 has been a year of renewal for the Belgian DPA. On the one hand, its Executive Committee has been completed with the appointment of two new directors in June, and on the other, the law organising its operations has been amended.

Renewal, and stronger internal and external collaboration

In 2023, the newly-completed Executive Committee has decided to focus on closer collaboration, not only between its own services, but also with external partners and other European data protection authorities.

The implementation of its 2023 "cookies" priority is a good example of this. In 2023, the EDPB (which brings together the European DPAs) published works and guidelines on cookies and other tracking technologies. Parallel to these European initiatives, the Belgian DPA also made available a practical compliance tool for controllers: the cookies checklist, and updated the “cookies” page of its website. These contents are the result of a close collaboration between all the DPA’s services, so that they crystallise different areas of expertise. In addition to these awareness-raising initiatives, the Belgian DPA also enforced and applied these “cookies” guidelines, notably through the work of its Litigation Chamber, but also by updating the cookie banners on its own sites.

As DPOs are partners in the field, the Belgian DPA also supported them by participating in the DPODay, by preparing an event dedicated to them (which took place in 2024), by paying attention to the position of the DPO in its investigations, and by addressing the subject of the DPO in the enforcement decisions of the Litigation Chamber. In 2023, the Belgian DPA also took part in a coordinated European action on the DPO.

As raising young people’s awareness of the need to protect their data is an important mission for the Belgian DPA, its Front office initiated partnerships with education stakeholders in 2023, and, for example, took part in an event dedicated to digital educational innovations.

The Chairwoman of the Belgian DPA and the Director of the General Secretariat also worked together to present the Belgian DPA's experience and expertise on the ethical and societal aspects of artificial intelligence to Parliament.

Cooperation within the Belgian DPA will increase even more in 2024 thanks to the vote, at the end of 2023, of a new law organising how the Belgian DPA operates.

In terms of sanctions, the Belgian DPA has actively contributed to the resolution of disputes at EDPB level (notably in cases against TikTok or Meta), but has also published important decisions at national level such as the so-called "FATCA" decision on international data transfers (currently being reviewed), and the decision on the right to erasure of baptismal records (currently being appealed).

More information on these subjects is available in our Annual Report 2023 (in French or Dutch).

The year 2023 in figures

The number of files received increased overall in 2023, but it was above all the number of requests for opinions which increased the most remarkably.  

In 2023, the Belgian DPA received 694 complaints, compared with 604 in 2022 (+15%). There was also an increase in requests for mediation (214 requests in 2023 compared with 177 in 2022, an increase of 21%). The main subjects of complaints and requests for mediation in 2023 were direct marketing, photos and cameras and telecommunications (including cookies and social media).

The Belgian DPA received 1292 notifications of data breaches (compared with 1426 in 2022, a slight decrease of 9%). Human error remains the most frequent cause of notified data breaches in 2023 (43% of these are due to error), but "hacking, phishing & malware" is taking on an increasingly significant role as a cause of data breaches in 2023 (it is the cause of 32% of breaches in 2023 compared with 25% in 2022).

Finally, the Belgian DPA received 611 requests for opinions on legislative texts (compared with 321 in 2022), an increase of 90% due in particular to the context of the end of the legislature and an increase in requests from Flemish public bodies. It should also be noted that the Council of State refers all draft legislation with any impact on data processing to the Belgian DPA, which considerably increases the Knowledge Centre's legislative review task.

In terms of law enforcement: the Inspection Service launched 86 investigations in 2023, compared with 101 in 2022 (which, after the Covid period, once again freed up time for its audit missions in addition to its inspection tasks).

The Belgian DPA's Litigation Chamber issued 171 decisions in 2023, compared with 189 in 2022.

You can find more details about these figures in the figures section of our Annual Report 2023 online or in PDF (in French or Dutch).

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