European Union: Data Protection Impact Assessments under GDPR: Article 29 Working Party Adopts Draft Guidelines

The EU General Data Protection Regulation's (GDPR) requirements are coming into focus quickly as EU data protection authorities continue to issue guidance on different aspects of the law. On April 4, 2017, the Article 29 Working Party (Working Party) continued this trend by adopting draft Guidelines on Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) and determining whether processing is "likely to result in a high risk" for the purposes of Regulation 2016/679 (Guidelines). The Working Party is asking for comments regarding this draft document by May 23, 2017. The document will then likely be finalized at one of the upcoming plenary meetings of the Working Party.

The Guidelines are the Working Party's first step in seeking to promote common criteria, methodology, and recommendations with respect to DPIAs under the GDPR. Companies should take note, and they should begin to consider how they will integrate DPIAs into their day-to-day operations. As with other aspects of the GDPR, non-compliance with DPIA requirements can result in fines of up to 2% of the respective group of companies' global revenue from the preceding year.

What is a DPIA?

The GDPR does not formally define the concept of a DPIA. However, Article 35(7) sets out the minimum content of a DPIA, and Recital 84 of the GDPR clarifies the meaning and role of a DPIA as follows: "In order to enhance compliance with this Regulation where processing operations are likely to result in a high risk to the rights and  freedoms of natural persons, the controller should be responsible for the carrying-out of a data protection impact assessment to evaluate, in particular, the origin, nature, particularity and severity of that risk." (Emphasis added).

A DPIA may concern a single data processing operation. However, the Guidelines clarify that it also may cover a set of similar processing operations, for example, where a group of data controllers are engaged in similar data processing operations or when the same technology product is likely to be implemented by several different data controllers. In such cases, the Guidelines note that each data controller is responsible for carrying out its own DPIA, but that data controllers and/or technology providers may coordinate with each other in carrying out their DPIAs or, in the case of joint controllers, in defining their respective obligations.

When is a DPIA mandatory under the GDPR?

Under Article 35(1) of the GDPR, a DPIA is required when the processing is "likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons." (Emphasis added). Article 35(3) provides several examples of such circumstances, but the Guidelines set out more specific criteria that should be considered. Specifically, a DPIA may be required if the processing operations involve:

  • Evaluation or scoring, including profiling and predicting: especially from "aspects concerning the data subject's performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests, reliability or behavior, location or movements" (Recitals 71 and 91);
  • Automated-decision making with legal or similar significant effect (Article 35(3)(a));
  • Systematic monitoring (Article 35(3)(c));
  • Sensitive data: this includes "special categories of personal data" (sensitive data) as defined in Article 9 (for example information about individuals' political opinions), as well as personal data relating to criminal convictions or offences;
  • Data processed on a large scale: the GDPR does not define what constitutes "large-scale," but Recital 91 provides some guidance and the Working Party recommends that the following factors be considered:

    • The number of data subjects concerned, either as a specific number or as a proportion of the relevant population;
    • The volume of data and/or the range of different data items being processed;
    • The duration, or permanence, of the data processing activity; and
    • The geographical extent of the processing activity.
  • Data sets that have been matched or combined;
  • Data concerning vulnerable data subjects (Recital 75);
  • Innovative use or applying technological or organizational solutions;
  • Data transfer across borders outside the European Union (Recital 116); and
  • When the processing in itself "prevents data subjects from exercising a right or using a service or a contract" (Article 22 and Recital 91).

The Guidelines clarify that, as a rule of thumb, data processing operations that meet at least two of these criteria will require a DPIA. But, in the view of the Working Party, even a processing operation that meets only one of these criteria may require a DPIA in certain circumstances.

The Guidelines also clarify that a DPIA is not required in certain circumstances, such as when the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing are very similar to the processing for which a DPIA has already been carried out.

What about already existing processing operations?

The Guidelines note that the requirement to carry out a DPIA applies to processing operations initiated after the GPDR becomes applicable on May 25, 2018. However, the Working Party "strongly recommends" carrying out a DPIA for processing operations that are already underway, and a DPIA may be required for existing processing operations where:

  • A significant change to a processing operation takes place after May 2018, for example because a company uses a new technology or uses personal data for a different purpose;
  • Risks change as a result of changes to one of the components of the processing operation (data, supporting assets, risk sources, potential impacts, threats, etc.) or because the context of the processing evolves (purpose, functionalities, etc.); or
  • The organizational or societal context for the processing activity has changed.

The Guidelines also recommend that DPIAs be continuously carried out or reassessed after 3 years, or perhaps sooner if necessary.

How do companies implement a DPIA?

The Guidelines emphasize that a DPIA should be carried out prior to the processing. The Working Party recommends taking a "privacy by design" approach (e.g., starting early and updating the DPIA throughout the lifecycle of the project) and treating the DPIA as a "continual process, not a one-time exercise." The Guidelines also discuss in detail what features are required when conducting a DPIA, and offer the following key recommendations:

  • Choose a DPIA methodology (examples are given in Annex 1 of the Guidelines) that satisfies the criteria in Annex 2 of the Guidelines (which provides a helpful checklist to assess whether a DPIA is sufficiently comprehensive to comply with the GDPR), or specify and implement a systematic DPIA process that:

    • Is compliant with the criteria in Annex 2 of the Guidelines;
    • Is integrated into existing design, development, change, risk and operational review processes in accordance with internal processes, context and culture; and
    • Involves the appropriate interested parties and define their responsibilities clearly (controller, DPO, data subjects or their representatives, business, technical services, processors, information security officer, etc.).
  • Provide the DPIA report to the competent supervisory authority when required to do so;
  • Consult the supervisory authority when the data controller has failed to determine sufficient measures to mitigate the high risks;
  • Periodically review the DPIA and the processing it assesses, at least when there is a change of the risk posed by processing the operation; and
  • Document the decisions taken.

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.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.