At a glance    

  • The GDPR sets out seven key principles:
    • Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
    • Purpose limitation
    • Data minimisation
    • Accuracy
    • Storage limitation
    • Integrity and confidentiality (security)
    • Accountability
  • These principles should lie at the heart of your approach to processing personal data.

In brief

What’s new under the GPDR?   

The principles are broadly similar to the principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (the 1998 Act).

  1998 Act:   GDPR:  
  Principle 1 – fair and lawful   Principle (a) – lawfulness, fairness and transparency  
  Principle 2 – purposes   Principle (b) – purpose limitation  
  Principle 3 – adequacy   Principle (c) – data minimisation  
  Principle 4 – accuracy   Principle (d) – accuracy  
  Principle 5 - retention   Principle (e) – storage limitation  
  Principle 6 – rights   No principle – separate provisions in Chapter III  
  Principle 7 – security   Principle (f) – integrity and confidentiality  
  Principle 8 – international transfers   No principle – separate provisions in Chapter V  
 

(no equivalent)

 

Accountability principle

 

However there are a few key changes. Most obviously: 

  • there is no principle for individuals’ rights. This is now dealt with separately in Chapter III of the GDPR;
  • there is no principle for international transfers of personal data. This is now dealt with separately in Chapter V of the GDPR; and
  • there is a new accountability principle. This specifically requires you to take responsibility for complying with the principles, and to have appropriate processes and records in place to demonstrate that you comply.

What are the principles? 

Article 5 of the GDPR sets out seven key principles which lie at the heart of the general data protection regime.

Article 5(1) requires that personal data shall be:  

“(a) processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals (‘lawfulness, fairness and transparency’);

(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 (‘purpose limitation’);

(c) adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed (‘data minimisation’);

(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 (‘accuracy’);

(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 (‘storage limitation’);

(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 (‘integrity and confidentiality’).”

Article 5(2) adds that:

“The controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate compliance with, paragraph 1 (‘accountability’).”

For more detail on each principle, please read the relevant page of this guide.

Why are the principles important?

The principles lie at the heart of the GDPR. They are set out right at the start of the legislation, and inform everything that follows. They don’t give hard and fast rules, but rather embody the spirit of the general data protection regime - and as such there are very limited exceptions.

Compliance with the spirit of these key principles is therefore a fundamental building block for good data protection practice. It is also key to your compliance with the detailed provisions of the GPDR.

Failure to comply with the principles may leave you open to substantial fines. Article 83(5)(a) states that infringements of the basic principles for processing personal data are subject to the highest tier of administrative fines. This could mean a fine of up to €20 million, or 4% of your total worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher.

Further reading

Read our individual rights and international transfers guidance