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Personal Data vs. ”Sensitive” Personal Data

What is the difference between Personal Data and ”Sensitive” Personal Data? Read this article to find out.

Q1. When is personal data considered sensitive?

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) makes a distinction between “personal data” and “sensitive personal data.” Personal data means any information relating to an identified or identifiable neutral person (data subject). Meanwhile, sensitive personal data is a specific set of “special categories” of personal data that must be treated with extra care.

Personal data Sensitive personal data
Name Race
Address Religion
Email address Political opinions
Photo Trade union membership
IP address Sexual orientation
Location data Health information
Online behaviour (cookies) Biometric data
Profiling and analytics data Genetic data

Q2. Under what conditions can a company/organisation process sensitive data?

According to the GDPR, a company/organisation can only process ”sensitive” data if one of the following is met:

  • Consent: when the data subject agrees to the processing when presented with a clear explanation of the personal data that will be collected and what it will be used for. 
  • A contract with the individual: for example, to supply goods or services they have requested or to fulfil an obligation under an employee contract. 
  • Vital interests: for example, when processing data will protect someone’s physical integrity or life (either the data subject’s or someone else’s). 
  • A public task: for example, to complete official functions or tasks in the public interest. This will typically cover public authorities such as government departments, schools and other educational institutions; hospitals; and the police. 

A complete list is available in Article 6 and Article 9 of the GDPR.

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