Ireland: Location, Location, Location – New DPC Guidance

Whether you are booking a taxi or searching nearby restaurants, location data is proving increasingly useful. Equally, however, location data is likely to identify the person using these services. Given how frequently location data is used, and in light of the associated risks, the Data Protection Commissioner ("DPC") recently published a guidance note on the collection and processing of location data.

We examine what location data is, when data protection rules apply, and how service providers can comply with those rules.

What is location data?

Location data is created when technologies allow electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to be easily located. This enables the person using such a device to easily access an array of services, from checking local weather to discovering what is showing at a nearby cinema.

If an electronic device is easily located, then, generally speaking, so is the person who uses it. Since a person's movements could be analysed over a particular period of time, this information can become valuable. For example, service providers might seek to target people with specific advertisements. The DPC believes that this poses potentially serious risks to a person's privacy.

Location data as personal data

If information is considered to be personal data, the collection and use of such information is regulated under the Data Protection Acts (the "Acts"). For location data to be considered personal data, it must:

  1. relate to a living person; and
  2. make it possible to identify the person.

In general, the DPC suggests that if location data relates to a living person, it is likely to constitute personal data.

If it is possible to infer information about a living person, then location data will be deemed to relate to them. The DPC suggests that information relating to a smartphone would "always" be considered as relating to a living person as the smartphone would usually be kept close to the user.

In terms of identifying the person, location data clearly identifies the person if it is linked with their name, contact details or a unique ID. However, the DPC states that, even without such linked information, the identity of a person might still be known due to the intimate nature of location data.

Sensitive personal data

Certain personal data, for example, information relating to a person's religious or political beliefs, their health or their sexual life, are considered sensitive personal data. Such data can only be processed when certain additional requirements are met under the Acts. Generally speaking, explicit consent is required.

According to the DPC, location data collected over a period of time could constitute sensitive personal data. This might arise if it is possible to discover any of these sensitive traits, such as by showing a person visiting a church or making repeat visits to a hospital. In this regard, the DPC suggests minimising both the frequency of collection of location data and the period for which such data is retained.

Additional rules

It is worth highlighting that, in some cases, additional rules apply to the collection and use of certain location data. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2011 ("ePrivacy Regs") include special rules for location data which has been generated from data processed in an electronic communications network, such as a public broadband network, or by an electronic communications service, such as a telco. As a result, GPS and certain Wi-Fi location data are not normally governed by the ePrivacy Regs. 

Data protection compliance

If a service provider wants to collect or use location data, it must comply with the Acts. This includes obtaining and using the data fairly and lawfully and then deleting it after an appropriate period of time.

1.Process fairly

It is crucial that location data is obtained and used fairly. In short, this means being transparent with users about when and why their location data is collected and used. In particular, the DPC recommends:

clearly informing the user that location data will be collected;
explaining what such data will be used for;
describing when location data will be collected, such as during app usage or all the time; and
using a "recognisable and visible indicator" when location data is being collected

In making these recommendations, the DPC highlighted that service providers should that ensure users, not just device owners, are made aware of the above.

2.Obtain consent

In conjunction with the fair processing obligation, the DPC recommends obtaining the user's consent for the collection and use of location data. By providing transparent information as described above, a user can make an informed decision to opt in or opt out. In addition, users should be informed of, and their consent sought for, any change or new or additional purposes their location data will be used for.

EU regulators take the view that consent for location data cannot be part of the general terms and conditions of a service. This means that service providers should specifically and separately draw attention to its collection.

3.Delete it

Location data should not be retained longer than necessary for the purposes it was originally collected. The DPC highlights that deleting location data in a timely matter is particularly important. This is because a pattern of a person's movements over time can reveal intimate details of their personal life. With this in mind, service providers should implement appropriate retention periods and seek to minimise the location data they hold.

What next?

Service providers should undertake a privacy impact assessment where they intended to collect and use location data. Compliance with the Acts should be central to the development of any such project. In addition to the above guidance, service providers should ensure that they minimise the frequency and granularity of location data they collect. Data minimisation, both from a collection and a retention standpoint, is crucial in the eyes of the DPC.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
29 Oct 2019, Workshop, Dublin, Ireland

Our second in-depth training session of 2019 for Company Directors will take place on Tuesday 29 October in our offices on Barrow Street.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions