The Six Principles Underpinning GDPR

GDPR will come into effect on 25th May 2018, and at its core are six underpinning Principles. A good starting point to begin thinking about how your business might respond to GDPR is to consider how it might meet these six Principles; the Principles are set out below together with some suggested initial questions for your business to consider prior to commencing the process of moving towards GDPR compliance.

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Article 5 of the GDPR requires that personal data shall be:

Principle (a)

processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals;

“Lawfulness, fairness and transparency”




Principle (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”


  • How would you define the purpose(s) of your business’s current data processing activities so that this Principle is met?
  • What checks does your business have in place to ensure that the purpose(s) is/are not exceeded?



Principle (c)

adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed; “Data minimisation”


  • How has your business gone about deciding what personal data are actually needed so that the data collected are the minimum you need for your defined purpose?
  • How much of the sought data would be deemed sensitive or commercially confidential?



Principle (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”



  • What processes does your business have in place to ensure that the personal data it collect are accurate, and remain accurate over the time they are retained?
  • How would your business deal with any identified inaccuracies?



Principle (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”



  • How has your business gone about deciding upon the time period that it will retain within the business the personal data it has collected?
  • What sort of industry based standards does your business need to conform to, if any?



Principle (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”



  • What sort of people policies does your business have in place to ensure the personal data you receive, process and store, in both paper and electronic forms, are properly protected?
  • How confident is your business that its IT security strategy is robust enough to provide satisfactory protection to the personal data within your business, and what sort of industry standard does this strategy need to conform to?


Article 5(2) requires that:

“the controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles.”

Your ability to answer the above questions easily will give you an insight into how well you are positioned to meet the key requirements of GDPR, which include, for example:

  • The legal basis of your data processing (Article 6)
  • The conditions for gaining consent (Article 7)
  • The rights of data subjects (Articles 12 to 22)
  • The responsibilities of the data controller and processor (Articles 24 to 30)
  • The security of personal data (Articles 32 to 36)

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