If you have recently received emails from organisations you have previously dealt with, many of them will have requested your permission to continue holding data about you as part of their compliance for the GDPR which became mandatory for most organisations in the UK on the 25th May 2018.

What does the GDPR mean for you and what are the key activities that are regulated?

The GDPR applies to ‘controllers’ and ‘processors’. The definitions are broadly the same as under the Data Protection Act (DPA) – i.e. the controller says how and why personal data is processed and the processor acts on the controller’s behalf. If you are currently subject to the DPA, it is likely that you will also be subject to the GDPR. If you are a processor, the GDPR places specific legal obligations on you; for example, you are required to maintain records of personal data and processing activities. You will have significantly more legal liability if you are responsible for a breach. These obligations for processors are a new requirement under the GDPR. However, if you are a controller, you are not relieved of your obligations where a processor is involved – the GDPR places further obligations on you to ensure your contracts with processors comply with the GDPR. The GDPR applies to processing carried out by organisations operating within the EU. It also applies to organisations outside the EU that offer goods or services to individuals in the EU. The GDPR does not apply to certain activities including processing covered by the Law Enforcement 20 October 2017 – 1.13.4 3 Directive, processing for national security purposes and processing carried out by individuals purely for personal/household activities.

What information does the GDPR apply to?

The GDPR applies to ‘personal data’. However, the GDPR’s definition is more detailed than the DPA and makes it clear that information such as an online identifier – e.g. an IP address – can be personal data. The more expansive definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people. For most organisations, keeping HR records, customer lists, or contact details etc, the change to the definition should make little practical difference. You can assume that if you hold information that falls within the scope of the DPA, it will also fall within the scope of the GDPR. The GDPR applies to both automated personal data and to manual filing systems where personal data are accessible according to specific criteria. This is wider than the DPA’s definition and could include chronologically ordered sets of manual records containing personal data. Personal data that has been pseudonymised – e.g. key-coded – can fall within the scope of the GDPR depending on how difficult it is to attribute the pseudonym to a particular individual.

Why is their particular mention of sensitive personal data under the GDPR?

The GDPR refers to sensitive personal data as “special categories of personal data”. These categories are broadly the same as those in the DPA, but there are some minor changes. For example, the special categories specifically include genetic data and biometric data where processed to uniquely identify an individual. Personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences are not included, but similar extra safeguards apply to its processing.

What are the principles under the GDPR?

The data protection principles set out the main responsibilities for organisations. The principles are similar to those in the DPA, with added detail at certain points and a new accountability requirement. The GDPR does not have principles relating to individuals’ rights or overseas transfers of personal data – these are specifically addressed in separate articles. The most significant addition is the accountability principle. The GDPR requires you to show how you comply with the principles – for example by documenting the decisions you take about a processing activity. Article 5 of the GDPR requires that personal data shall be:

(a) processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals;
(b) collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes; further processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes shall not be considered to be incompatible with the initial purposes;
(c) adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed;
(d) accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date; every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that personal data that are inaccurate, having regard to the purposes for which they are processed, are erased or rectified without delay;
(e) kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed; personal data may be stored for longer periods insofar as the personal data will be processed solely for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes subject to implementation of the appropriate technical and organisational measures required by the GDPR in order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals;
(f) processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organisational measures.

Article 5(2) also requires that “the controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles.”

Key areas to consider lawful processing of data

For processing to be lawful under the GDPR, you need to identify a lawful basis before you can process personal data. These are often referred to as the “conditions for processing” under the DPA. It is important that you determine your lawful basis for processing personal data and document this. This becomes more of an issue under the GDPR because your lawful basis for processing has an effect on individuals’ rights. For example, if you rely on someone’s consent to process their data, they will generally have stronger rights, for example to have their data deleted. The GDPR allows member states to introduce more specific provisions in relation to Articles 6(1)(c) and (e): These provisions are particularly relevant to public authorities and highly regulated sectors.

What consent do I need to hold personal data?

Consent under the GDPR must be a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the individual’s wishes. There must be some form of clear affirmative action – or in other words, a positive opt-in – consent cannot be inferred from silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity. Consent must also be separate from other terms and conditions, and you will need to provide simple ways for people to withdraw consent. Public authorities and employers will need to take particular care to ensure that consent is freely given. Consent has to be verifiable, and individuals generally have more rights where you rely on consent to process their data. Remember that you can rely on other lawful bases apart from consent – for example, where processing is necessary for the purposes of your organisation’s or a third party’s legitimate interests. You are not required to automatically ‘repaper’ or refresh all existing DPA consents in preparation for the GDPR. But if you rely on individuals’ consent to process their data, make sure it will meet the GDPR standard on being specific, granular, clear, prominent, opt-in, properly documented and easily withdrawn. If not, alter your consent mechanisms and seek fresh GDPR-compliant consent, or find an alternative to consent.

Children’s personal data

The GDPR contains new provisions intended to enhance the protection of children’s personal data. Privacy notices are required for children where services are offered directly to a child and you must ensure that your privacy notice is written in a clear, plain way that a child will understand. Where you offer online services for children, you may need to obtain consent from a parent or guardian to process the child’s data. The GDPR states that, if consent is your basis for processing the child’s personal data, a child under the age of 16 can’t give that consent themselves and instead consent is required from a person holding ‘parental responsibility’ – but note that it does permit member states to provide for a lower age in law, as long as it is not below 13. The GDPR emphasises that protection is particularly significant where children’s personal information is used for the purposes of marketing and creating online profiles. Parental/guardian consent is not required where the processing is related to preventative or counselling services offered directly to a child.

What are the rights of individuals?

The GDPR creates some new rights for individuals and strengthens some of the rights that currently exist under the DPA. The GDPR provides the following rights for individuals:

1. The right to be informed
The right to be informed encompasses your obligation to provide ‘fair processing information’, typically through a privacy notice. It emphasises the need for transparency over how you use personal data.

2. The right of access
What information is an individual entitled to under the GDPR? Under the GDPR, individuals will have the right to obtain: confirmation that their data is being processed; access to their personal data; and other supplementary information – this largely corresponds to the information that should be provided in a privacy notice (see Article 15). These are similar to existing subject access rights under the DPA.

3. The right to rectification
When should personal data be rectified? Individuals are entitled to have personal data rectified if it is inaccurate or incomplete. If you have disclosed the personal data in question to third parties, you must inform them of the rectification where possible. You must also inform the individuals about the third parties to whom the data has been disclosed where appropriate.

4. The right to erasure
The right to erasure is also known as ‘the right to be forgotten’. The broad principle underpinning this right is to enable an individual to request the deletion or removal of personal data where there is no compelling reason for its continued processing.

5. The right to restrict processing
Under the DPA, individuals have a right to ‘block’ or suppress processing of personal data. The restriction of processing under the GDPR is similar. When processing is restricted, you are permitted to store the personal data, but not further process it. You can retain just enough information about the individual to ensure that the restriction is respected in future

6. The right to data portability
The right to data portability allows individuals to obtain and reuse their personal data for their own purposes across different services. It allows them to move, copy or transfer personal data easily from one IT environment to another in a safe and secure way, without hindrance to usability. Some organisations in the UK already offer data portability which allows individuals to view, access and use their personal consumption and transaction data in a way that is portable and safe. It enables consumers to take advantage of applications and services which can use this data to find them a better deal or help them understand their spending habits.

7. The right to object
When does the right to object apply? Individuals have the right to object to: processing based on legitimate interests or the performance of a task in the public interest/exercise of official authority (including profiling); direct marketing (including profiling); and processing for purposes of scientific/historical research and statistics.

8. Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling.
The GDPR provides safeguards for individuals against the risk that a potentially damaging decision is taken without human intervention. These rights work in a similar way to existing rights under the DPA. Identify whether any of your processing operations constitute automated decision making and consider whether you need to update your procedures to deal with the requirements of the GDPR.
Beyond the above rights, the GDPR outlines what accountability and governance is required. In particular the GDPR includes provisions that promote accountability and governance. These complement the GDPR’s transparency requirements. While the principles of accountability and transparency have previously been implicit requirements of data protection law, the GDPR’s emphasis elevates their significance. You are expected to put into place comprehensive but proportionate governance measures. Good practice such as privacy impact assessments and privacy by design are now legally required in certain circumstances. Ultimately, these measures should minimise the risk of breaches and uphold the protection of personal data. Practically, this is likely to mean more policies and procedures for organisations, although many organisations will already have good governance measures in place.