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Seven key data protection principles set out by GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation or the GDPR lays out seven data protection principles to drive compliance. They lie at the very core of GDPR, serving as the guiding principles for lawfully processing personal data.
Read time
3 min read
September 23, 2021
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The General Data Protection Regulation or the GDPR lays out seven data protection principles to drive compliance. They lie at the very core of GDPR, serving as the guiding principles for lawfully processing personal data.

Business companies must adhere to the obligations outlined in the GDPR principles when collecting and processing personal data from EU citizens.

If you're running a business, it's in your best interest to be aware of these principles. Otherwise, you're likely to end up counting massive fines. Find out the size of companies affected by GDPR here.

We will go through all seven key data protection principles to make you familiar with their provisions and help you comply with this strict data protection law.

1.  Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency

This first principle says that you must have a lawful basis for collecting and processing data from EU citizens. If you don’t have such a basis, you are to refrain from extracting information. According to the GDPR, there are six lawful bases, and they are as follows:

  • You can collect data only after obtaining consent from the user.
  • If you're entering into a contract with the client or user, you're allowed to process data.
  • Processing is permitted if you're fulfilling a legal obligation.
  • You are free to process data to protect the vital interest of the subject or a natural person.
  • Processing is deemed necessary when it comes to tasks carried out in the public interest.
  • Lastly, you can process data if you have proven legitimate interest that isn't overridden by the subject's rights, freedoms, and interests.

The term fairness relates to lawfulness in that you must make good on the promises you have made when collecting data. You can't misuse the data or process them in a manner that will negatively affect the user.

Transparency means you have to be completely open, honest, and straightforward with the subjects about how and why you're collecting the data. The users must also be told about everything that you will do with their personal information.

2.  Purpose Limitation

The Purpose Limitation Principle sets limits to what you can do with the collected data.

According to the GDPR, the purpose of the data collection must be 100% specific, explicit, and legitimate.

You are not allowed to hide anything from the data subjects by any means. It's also your responsibility to make sure the users understand the purpose.

3.  Data  Minimization

According to the Data Minimization principle, the data you collect must be strictly related to the purpose. You are only to obtain the amount of data you need for the stated purpose and nothing more than that.

GDPR is pretty strict about data minimization, as it will ask you to justify the data you collect, so always stay prepared with the right documentation.  

4.  Accuracy

All the data you collect and store has to be completely accurate and up to date where necessary, according to this principle.

Keeping inaccurate data is a direct violation of the GDPR; make sure to validate all the information you collect. Audit the stored data on a regular basis and delete everything that is inaccurate.

If you want to keep the data up to date, it would be a good idea to say so in your data policy.

5.  Storage Limitation

The Storage Limitation principle prevents companies from storing the collected data forever. It sets limits on the length of time that you can keep the data stored.

When that time expires, you lose the right to store and use the data. It's a good idea to set up data retention periods to make sure you never keep the data longer than you are allowed.

6.  Integrity And Confidentiality

According to the Integrity and Confidentiality principle, it is your responsibility to safeguard the data you collect from both internal and external threats.

You must take the necessary steps to make sure the data is never breached or compromised in any way.

To prevent cybercriminals from stealing the information, it's a good practice to adopt anonymization or pseudonymization to hide the identity of the subjects.

7.  Accountability 

The Accountability principle implies that the entire responsibility of data processing and management falls on you. You will be held accountable for every step you take.

Therefore, you must always be ready to prove that you're complying with the GDPR principles.

Be sure to record everything that you do when processing data. This way, you will be able to justify your actions should you ever need to.


Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of the seven key data protection principles set out by GDPR.

Of course, there is much more to know about the GDPR law, so make sure you understand everything if you want to keep your business running smoothly without facing huge fines.

For more information, check out our other article about 7 GDPR Principles.

Read time
3 min read
September 23, 2021
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