Guidelines on Consent under Regulation 2016/679
Adopted on 28 November 2017
These Guidelines provide a thorough analysis of the notion of consent in Regulation 2016/679, the General Data Protection Regulation (hereafter: GDPR). The concept of consent as used in the Data Protection Directive (hereafter: Directive 95/46/EC) and in the e-Privacy Directive to date, has evolved. The GDPR provides further clarification and specification of the requirements for obtaining and demonstrating valid consent. These Guidelines focus on these changes, providing practical guidance to ensure compliance with the GDPR and building upon Opinion 15/2011 on consent.
Consent remains one of six lawful bases to process personal data, as listed in Article 6 of the GDPR. When initiating activities that involve processing of personal data, a controller must always take time to consider whether consent is the appropriate lawful ground for the envisaged processing or whether another ground should be chosen instead.
Generally, consent can only be an appropriate lawful basis if a data subject is offered control and is offered a genuine choice with regard to accepting or declining the terms offered or declining them without detriment. When asking for consent, a controller has the duty to assess whether it will meet all the requirements to obtain valid consent. If obtained in full compliance with the GDPR, consent is a tool that gives data subjects control over whether or not personal data concerning them will be processed. If not, the data subject’s control becomes illusory and consent will be an invalid basis for processing, rendering the processing activity unlawful.
The existing Article 29 Working Party (WP29) Opinions on consentremain relevant, where consistent with the new legal framework, as the GDPR codifies existing WP29 guidance and general good practice and most of the key elements of consent remain the same under the GDPR. Therefore, in this document, WP29 expands upon and completes earlier Opinions on specific topics that include reference to consent under Directive 95/46/EC, rather than replacing them.
As stated in Opinion 15/2011 on the definition on consent, inviting people to accept a data processing operation should be subject to rigorous requirements, since it concerns the fundamental rights of data subjects and the controller wishes to engage in a processing operation that would be unlawful without the data subject’s consent.The crucial role of consent is underlined by Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Furthermore, obtaining consent also does not negate or in any way diminish the controller’s obligations to observe the principles of processing enshrined in the GDPR, especially Article 5 of the GDPR with regard to fairness, necessity and proportionality, as well as data quality. Even if the processing of personal data is based on consent of the data subject, this would not legitimise collection of data which is not necessary in relation to a specified purpose of processing and fundamentally unfair.
With regard to the existing e-Privacy Directive, WP29 notes that references to the repealed Directive 95/46/EC shall be construed as references to the GDPR. This also applies to references to consent in the current Directive 002/58/EC, in case the ePrivacy Regulation would not (yet) be in force as from 25 May 2018. According to Article 95 GDPR additional obligations in relation to processing in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services in public communication networks shall not be imposed insofar the e-Privacy Directive imposes specific obligations with the same objective. WP29 notes that the requirements for consent under the GDPR are not considered to be an ‘additional obligation’, but rather as preconditions for lawful processing. Therefore, the GDPR conditions for obtaining valid consent are applicable in situations falling within the scope of the e-Privacy Directive.
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