The legal Distinction between Personal and Non-Personal Data
It is important to understand what falls under the definition of data that can be placed in the public domain in the EU.
Data collection in the EU is governed by “Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR).
(1) ‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person…’
In other words: personal data is any information about a user, received from various sources: registration in a personal account, a callback form, a subscription form, etc. This, for example, can be: name; date of birth; address; phone number; email; social media profiles; preferences. Personal data is any information that relates to an identified or identifiable living individual. Different pieces of information collected can lead to the identification of a particular person, also constitute personal data.
The GDPR protects personal data regardless of the technology used for processing that data – it’s technology neutral and applies to both automated and manual processing, provided the data is organised in accordance with pre-defined criteria (for example alphabetical order). It also doesn’t matter how the data is stored – in an IT system, through video surveillance, or on paper; in all cases, personal data is subject to the protection requirements set out in the GDPR.
Examples of personal data:
- a name and surname;
- a home address;
- an email address such as email@example.com;
- an identification card number;
- location data (for example the location data function on a mobile phone)*;
- an Internet Protocol (IP) address;
- a cookie ID*;
- the advertising identifier of your phone;
- data held by a hospital or doctor, which could be a symbol that uniquely identifies a person.
Examples of data not considered personal data:
- a company registration number;
- an email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org;
- anonymised data.
Issues Concerning Ownership of Data and Rights of Owners
There is no EU legislation that specifically regulates the question of ownership of data. Instead, there is legislation that has an impact on data or that may confer some kind of protection to certain types of data, e.g. copyright, database rights and trade secrets.
Processing that does not require identification
1. If the personal data processed by the controller do not enable him to identify the individual, the data controller should not be obliged to obtain additional information in order to identify the data subject solely for the purposes of complying with any provision of this Regulation.
2. If, in the situations referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, the controller is able to prove that he cannot identify the data subject, the controller shall, as far as possible, inform the data subject. In such situations, Articles 15-20 shall not apply, unless the data subject, in order to exercise his rights under those Articles, provides additional information that enables his identification.
Information to be provided where personal data have not been obtained from the data subject
1. Where personal data have not been obtained from the data subject, the controller shall provide the data subject with the following information:
(a) the identity and the contact details of the controller and, where applicable, of the controller’s representative;
(b) the contact details of the data protection officer, where applicable;
(c) the purposes of the processing for which the personal data are intended as well as the legal basis for the processing;
(d) the categories of personal data concerned;
(e) the recipients or categories of recipients of the personal data, if any;
(f) where applicable, that the controller intends to transfer personal data to a recipient in a third country or international organisation and the existence or absence of an adequacy decision by the Commission, or in the case of transfers referred to in Article 46 or 47, or the second subparagraph of Article 49(1), reference to the appropriate or suitable safeguards and the means to obtain a copy of them or where they have been made available.
2. In addition to the information referred to in paragraph 1, the controller shall provide the data subject with the following information necessary to ensure fair and transparent processing in respect of the data subject:
(a) the period for which the personal data will be stored, or if that is not possible, the criteria used to determine that period;
(b) where the processing is based on point (f) of Article 6(1), the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party;
(c) the existence of the right to request from the controller access to and rectification or erasure of personal data or restriction of processing concerning the data subject and to object to processing as well as the right to data portability;
(d) where processing is based on point (a) of Article 6(1) or point (a) of Article 9(2), the existence of the right to withdraw consent at any time, without affecting the lawfulness of processing based on consent before its withdrawal;
(e) the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority;
(f) from which source the personal data originate, and if applicable, whether it came from publicly accessible sources;
(g) the existence of automated decision-making, including profiling, referred to in Article 22(1) and (4) and, at least in those cases, meaningful information about the logic involved, as well as the significance and the envisaged consequences of such processing for the data subject.
3. The controller shall provide the information referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2:
(a) within a reasonable period after obtaining the personal data, but at the latest within one month, having regard to the specific circumstances in which the personal data are processed;
(b) if the personal data are to be used for communication with the data subject, at the latest at the time of the first communication to that data subject; or
(c) if a disclosure to another recipient is envisaged, at the latest when the personal data are first disclosed.
4. Where the controller intends to further process the personal data for a purpose other than that for which the personal data were obtained, the controller shall provide the data subject prior to that further processing with information on that other purpose and with any relevant further information as referred to in paragraph 2.
5. Paragraphs 1 to 4 shall not apply where and insofar as:
(a) the data subject already has the information;
(b) the provision of such information proves impossible or would involve a disproportionate effort, in particular for processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes, subject to the conditions and safeguards referred to in Article 89(1) or in so far as the obligation referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article is likely to render impossible or seriously impair the achievement of the objectives of that processing. In such cases the controller shall take appropriate measures to protect the data subject’s rights and freedoms and legitimate interests, including making the information publicly available;
(c) obtaining or disclosure is expressly laid down by Union or Member State law to which the controller is subject and which provides appropriate measures to protect the data subject’s legitimate interests; or
(d) where the personal data must remain confidential subject to an obligation of professional secrecy regulated by Union or Member State law, including a statutory obligation of secrecy.