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International Data Transfers from Switzerland

The ability to transfer data internationally has become an essential aspect of global business operations. Exchanging personal data across borders enables multinational corporations to function seamlessly, opens international market access for businesses, and supports the logistics of global supply chains. For consumers, this means improved service delivery and enhanced product choices.

In Switzerland, personal data may not be transferred to countries lacking adequate levels of data protection unless specific protections are ensured. The Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP) stipulates that personal data originating from Switzerland must receive comparable levels of protection when it crosses borders as it does within the country.

Legal Requirements in Switzerland for Data Transfers

Swiss data protection regulations have been designed to align closely with international standards, particularly the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union. The key legal requirements for transferring data from Switzerland are the following:

  • Adequacy decisions: data can be transferred freely to countries that the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) has considered to have adequate data protection levels.
  • Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs): for countries without an adequacy decision, businesses often rely on SCCs. These are pre-approved legal terms that both the sender and the recipient of the data agree to, ensuring adequate data protection.
  • Specific corporate rules: large corporations can draft their own binding corporate rules for data protection, which must be approved by the FDPIC.
  • Exceptional circumstances: data transfers are also allowed under specific conditions, such as explicit consent from the data subject or if the transfer is necessary for the performance of a contract with the data subject.

Checklist for Businesses

Here is a simple checklist to help businesses engaged in the transfer of data from Switzerland with their compliance with legal standards:

  • Verify the adequacy: confirm if the recipient country is on the FDPIC’s list of countries with adequate data protection.
  • Use approved SCCs: if transferring to a country without adequate protection, use SCCs approved by the FDPIC.
  • Consent and necessity: ensure that you have explicit consent for the transfer or that the transfer is necessary for contract performance or legal obligations.
  • Update contracts and policies: review and update data transfer agreements and privacy policies to follow current laws.
  • Training and awareness: train employees on the legal requirements for data protection and international data transfers.

Failure to comply with Swiss data protection legal requirements can expose businesses to risks such as fines, legal disputes, and reputational damage. For specialised guidance and to ensure your operations align with these requirements, consider booking a complimentary 20-minute call with our lawyers. We offer expert advice on data protection legal matters to clients in Switzerland and globally.

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