GDPR Jargon Buster


The General Data Protection Regulation is the legal framework issued collectively by the European Parliament, the European Commission and Council of the European Union with the aim of unifying and strengthening data protection for all EU citizens.


UK GDPR                            

Following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, it adopted the EU GDPR into domestic law. While its  key principles, rights and obligations remain the same for now, it is likely to diverge following UK Data Reform Bill.


Data Subject

The individual to whom the personal data relates.


Personal Data

Any information relating to a data subject. It’s a very broad concept; you might be surprised at what’s included.


Data Processing

Any manual or automated activity carried out on personal data, from collection to destruction and everything in between.


Data Set

A grouping of personal data that has been collected for a specific purpose (e.g. customer contact data; employee payroll data; etc.).


Special Categories of Personal Data

Information relating to an individual’s race or ethnicity, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, physical and mental health, sexual life, criminal convictions or allegations, trade union membership; genetic and biometric data. Processing of this data is prohibited unless the data subject gives their explicit consent or the processing fulfils one of nine other specific conditions.


Data Controller

The individual or private organisation, public authority, agency or other body that decides why and how personal data will be processed (GDPR, Article 4.7).


Data Processor

The individual or private organisation, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller. The controller may also be the processor (GDPR, Article 4.8).


Data Protection Officer (DPO)

The individual, team or contractor nominated by the data controller to oversee the organisation’s data protection planning, training and other activities to ensure compliance with GDPR.


Supervisory Authority

Independent public authority(ies) appointed by each EU Member State and tasked with the responsibility for monitoring the application of the GDPR to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons in relation to data processing and facilitating the free flow of personal data within the EU. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office is responsible for upholding information rights in the public interest.


One Stop Shop (OSS)  

A mechanism for organisations established in the EU and engaged in cross-border personal data processing. It allows these organisations to deal with a single lead supervisory authority (LSA) for most of their processing activities.


Legal Basis for Processing

There are six legal bases that a data controller can rely on for processing personal data: 1. the data subject has given active consent to the processing for one or more purposes that have been previously disclosed to them; 2. the processing is necessary in the context of or to enter into a contract; 3. the processing is necessary for the data controller’s compliance with a legal obligation; 4. the processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject or another individual; 5. the processing is necessary in the public interest or to exercise the data controller’s official authority; 6. the processing is necessary for the legitimate interests of the data controller - however, these interests cannot override the interests or the fundamental rights of the data subject, particularly where that individual is a child (GDPR, Article 6).


Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA)

When a proposed processing activity is “likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons” the data controller must carry out a DPIA. A DPIA is a process that systematically describes and assesses the need for and the proportionality of the data processing activity. The DPIA must include an assessment of the risks to the rights and freedoms of the data subjects and must also provide measures for addressing those risks and ensuring the protection of the personal data (GDPR, Article 35).


Privacy Policy                  This is where an organisation sets out how the principles of data protection are applied to all of its data processing activities – including employee, customer and third-party data.


Privacy Statement

More specific than a privacy policy; it’s an organisation’s clear and concise public declaration of how the principles of data protection are applied to data processed on its website.


Data Retention Period

The length of time that personal data will be kept by the data controller, or the data processor on instruction from the data controller. It must be no more than is necessary for the purposes for which the data is processed. Once that defined period lapses, the data must be deleted or converted into a form that does not permit the identification of its subject(s). For some sectors and / or in certain circumstances, there are legal requirements that govern retention periods for particular data and these trump GDPR. However, data controllers should ensure that they retain only the data specified by the legal requirement and delete or anonymise the remainder.


Data Minimisation Principle

To process (i.e. collect, store, use, etc.) only the minimum data necessary for the specified purpose.


Accountability Principle

Under GDPR, it is not enough to be compliant with the regulation but you must be able to provide demonstrable evidence of your compliance activity.


Explicit Consent

Active consent in the form of an unambiguous written or spoken statement by the data subject where they have been presented with a clear option to agree or disagree with the processing of their personal data for a specified purpose.


Data Subject Request / Data Access Request

The method by which a data subject can request all of the personal data relating to them that is held by an individual or an organisation, free of charge.


DPO Function

The tasks that the DPO is responsible for carrying out.


Data Audit

The means of documenting all of the personal data the organisation processes, the processing it is subjected to and the purposes for which it is processed.



The technique of modifying personal data in such a way that it can no longer be associated with the data subject without the addition of other information.