What Is Meant By Sensitive Personal Data Under GDPR?

Sensitive Personal Data Under GDPR

Protecting sensitive personal data is important. However, taking control of the sensitive data of individuals is crucial as well. In this blog, we will explore the significance of sensitive personal data, its definition under the GDPR, and its types. We will also discuss what steps to take in case of a sensitive data leak. Join us as we delve into the world of sensitive personal data under GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

What Is Sensitive Personal Data?

What Is Sensitive Personal Data?Under GDPR, sensitive personal data refers to personal information that is more private and requires additional protection. This type of data includes information about an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, genetic data, biometric data, health-related data, etc. The GDPR imposes stricter rules and conditions for processing sensitive personal data to ensure the privacy and security of individuals’ most intimate information.

Types Of Sensitive Data

Sensitive data, if mishandled or disclosed, could result in harm, discrimination, or privacy breaches. Here are some common types of sensitive data:

  • Personal Identifiable Information (PII): such as full name, date of birth, social security number, passport number, driver’s license number, or national identification number.
  • Financial Information: such as bank account numbers, credit card information, financial transaction details, or income details.
  • Health Information: Medical records, health conditions, treatments, prescriptions, and other health-related data.
  • Biometric Data: such as fingerprints, facial recognition data, iris scans, or DNA profiles.
  • Genetic Data: Genetic information, including DNA sequences, genetic test results, or family medical history.
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
  • Religious or Philosophical Beliefs
  • Political Opinions

Is Religion Also A Sensitive Data? And How?

Is Religion Also A Sensitive Data? And How?Yes, religion is sensitive data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It may involve, the religion, opinions, or spiritual beliefs of an individual. Individuals have the right to follow the religion of their choice. However, this type of information can cause discrimination or conflicts if misunderstood. Processing religion-related information must involve additional protection and adherence to stricter rules and conditions under the GDPR.

Why Protecting Sensitive Personal Data Is Crucial?

Protecting sensitive personal data is crucial under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for several important reasons:

1. Privacy and fundamental rights

Sensitive personal data encompasses highly personal and intimate information about individuals. Respecting individuals’ privacy and protecting their fundamental rights to personal autonomy and dignity are fundamental principles of the GDPR. Safeguarding sensitive personal data ensures that individuals can maintain control over their most private information and avoid potential harm or discrimination.

2. Risk of harm and discrimination

Risk of harm and discriminationMishandling or unauthorized disclosure of sensitive personal data can lead to various forms of harm. For instance, exposure to health information can result in medical identity theft, discrimination, or social stigma. Likewise, revealing an individual’s religious beliefs, political opinions, or sexual orientation without consent can subject them to discrimination, prejudice, or even physical harm. By implementing robust protection measures, organizations can minimize the risk of such negative consequences.

3. Enhanced data security

Sensitive personal data requires stronger security measures to prevent unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. The GDPR emphasizes implementing appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data, including encryption, access controls, regular security assessments, and staff training. Hence, by ensuring the security of sensitive personal data, organizations can mitigate the risk of data breaches, identity theft, and other cybercrimes.

4. Informed consent and individual control

Informed consent and individual controlProcessing sensitive personal data typically requires obtaining explicit consent from the data subject. This is because it involves more significant privacy risks. The GDPR emphasizes the importance of providing individuals with clear and specific information about the processing of their sensitive data and obtaining their informed consent. This empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their sensitive data and gives them greater control over their personal information.

5. Legal compliance and accountability

Compliance with the GDPR is mandatory for organizations handling personal data, including sensitive personal data. Failing to adequately protect sensitive data can lead to severe penalties, including fines of up to 4% of the organization’s annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher. Demonstrating compliance with the GDPR’s requirements for processing sensitive data helps organizations fulfill their legal obligations and demonstrates a commitment to data protection and privacy.

Overall, protecting sensitive personal data is crucial under the GDPR to safeguard individuals’ privacy, prevent harm and discrimination, ensure data security, respect individuals’ autonomy, and meet legal obligations. It fosters a culture of responsible data handling, accountability, and trust between organizations and individuals.

What To Do In Case Of Sensitive Personal Data Leak?

What To Do In Case Of Sensitive Personal Data Leak?In the event of a sensitive personal data leak under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is essential to take prompt and appropriate action. Here are the recommended steps to follow:

  • Contain and Investigate: Immediately upon discovering the data leak, take steps to contain and mitigate the impact. Investigate the breach to determine the extent of the incident, the nature of the data affected, and the cause of the breach.
  • Assess the Risk: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to evaluate the potential risks to individuals’ rights and freedoms as a result of the data leak. Consider the sensitivity of the data, the likelihood of harm, and the potential consequences for affected individuals.
  • Notify the Supervisory Authority: If the data breach poses a risk to individuals’ rights and freedoms, report the incident to the relevant supervisory authority within the specified timeframe outlined by the GDPR. Moreover, provide all necessary details regarding the breach, including the nature of the data, the approximate number of affected individuals, and the actions taken to mitigate the breach.
  • Notify the Affected Individuals: If the breach is likely to result in a high risk to individuals’ rights and freedoms, promptly inform the affected individuals about the breach.
  • Seek Legal and Privacy Expertise: It is advisable to seek legal and privacy expertise from professionals experienced in GDPR compliance. They can guide the specific steps to take, assist in assessing the breach’s impact, and liaise with supervisory authorities if necessary. Moreover, they can help navigate any legal obligations or consequences resulting from the breach.


In conclusion, sensitive personal data is a special category of information that requires heightened protection under the GDPR. This includes data related to race, religion, health, sexuality, and more. Safeguarding this data is crucial to uphold individuals’ privacy, prevent harm, and promote trust. Organizations must comply with the GDPR’s stringent regulations, implement robust security measures, and prioritize informed consent. For guidance on handling sensitive personal data and ensuring GDPR compliance, seek help from legal and privacy professionals.

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