All-in-one Risk Management Platform

What is Personal Data under the GDPR?

Understand the concept of personal data under the GDPR and learn about the different categories of data, compliance requirements, and the importance of protecting personal information.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Join thousands of companies who build trust with Accountable.

What is Personal Data under the GDPR? A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding Personal Data and the GDPR

In today's digital world, personal data has become a valuable asset for businesses and individuals alike. With the exponential growth of data-driven technologies and platforms, the importance of protecting personal information has taken center stage. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a significant legislative response to this issue. This blog post explores the concept of personal data under the GDPR, its different categories, and the importance of complying with the regulation.

Defining Personal Data under the GDPR

Personal data, according to the GDPR, refers to any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual. An identifiable person is one who can be directly or indirectly identified, particularly by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier, or one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity of that person.

In essence, if the data can be used to identify a person either directly or when combined with other pieces of information, it qualifies as personal data.

Categories of Personal Data under the GDPR

To ensure comprehensive protection, the GDPR classifies personal data into various categories. Some of these categories include:

Basic Identifying Information

This includes data such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Sensitive Personal Data

This category comprises data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, health data, or data concerning a person's sex life or sexual orientation. The GDPR imposes stricter rules on the processing of sensitive personal data due to its potentially invasive nature.

Pseudonymous Data

Pseudonymous data refers to personal data processed in a way that it can no longer be attributed to a specific individual without the use of additional information. While the GDPR still considers pseudonymous data as personal data, it encourages organizations to use pseudonymization as a means to reduce the risks associated with data processing.

Online Identifiers

Online identifiers include IP addresses, cookies, and other device identifiers. These pieces of data can be used to track a person's online activities and preferences, and they are therefore considered personal data under the GDPR.

“Saved our business.”
"Easy to use!"
"Accountable is a no brainer."

Get started with Accountable today.

The modern platform to manage risk and build trust across privacy, security, and compliance.
Get Started Today
Join over 17,000 companies who trust Accountable.

Compliance Requirements for Handling Personal Data

Organizations processing personal data must adhere to the GDPR's strict requirements to ensure the protection of individuals' rights and privacy. Some of the key principles and obligations that organizations must follow include:

Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency

Organizations must process personal data lawfully, fairly, and transparently, providing clear information to individuals about how their data will be used.

Purpose Limitation

Personal data must only be collected for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes, and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes.

Data Minimization

Organizations should only collect the data that is necessary for the intended purpose and avoid collecting excessive or irrelevant information.


Personal data must be kept accurate and up-to-date, with reasonable steps taken to ensure that inaccurate data is either corrected or deleted.

Storage Limitation

Personal data should not be stored for longer than necessary, taking into account the purpose for which it was collected.

Integrity and Confidentiality

Organizations must implement appropriate security measures to protect personal data against unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction.


Organizations are responsible for demonstrating compliance with the GDPR's principles and requirements, including maintaining records of processing activities, conducting Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) for high-risk processing, and appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO) where necessary.

Rights of Individuals under the GDPR

To ensure that individuals maintain control over their personal data, the GDPR grants them several rights concerning their information. These rights include:

Right to Access

Individuals have the right to know whether an organization is processing their personal data and, if so, to access that data along with information about the processing.

Right to Rectification

Individuals can request that inaccurate personal data be corrected or completed if it is incomplete.

Right to Erasure ("Right to be Forgotten")

Under certain circumstances, individuals have the right to request the deletion of their personal data.

Right to Restriction of Processing

Individuals can request that the processing of their personal data be restricted under specific conditions.

Right to Data Portability

Individuals have the right to receive their personal data in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format and transmit it to another organization without hindrance.

Right to Object

Individuals can object to the processing of their personal data for particular purposes, including direct marketing and profiling.

Rights Related to Automated Decision-making and Profiling

The GDPR grants individuals the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which has legal or similarly significant effects on them.

Conclusion: The Importance of Protecting Personal Data under the GDPR

Understanding the concept of personal data under the GDPR is crucial for organizations that process personal information to comply with the regulation and avoid hefty fines and penalties. By adhering to the GDPR's requirements and respecting the rights of individuals, organizations can foster trust with their customers and users, ultimately enhancing their reputation and promoting ethical data practices.

In a world where personal data is increasingly valuable and vulnerable, the GDPR plays a vital role in protecting individuals' privacy and ensuring that organizations handle personal information responsibly and transparently.

Like what you see?  Learn more below

Understand the concept of personal data under the GDPR and learn about the different categories of data, compliance requirements, and the importance of protecting personal information.
How to Respond to a Breach or Cyberattack
CMIA (California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act)
What is a HIPAA Compliance Checklist?
Ten Common HIPAA Compliance Mistakes and Effective Strategies for Mitigation
Safeguarding Your Business: Preventing a Data Incident
What is Personal Data under the GDPR?
Streamlining the Employee Off-boarding Process
Traits and Responsibilities of a GDPR Data Controller
ISO 27001 vs HIPAA
Complying with Texas HB300
Contractors Under CCPA/CPRA
Why was the CCPA Introduced?
HIPAA IT Compliance Checklist
How to Secure Your Company's Email Communication: Best Practices and Strategies
Complying with ISO 27001: Strategies and Best Practices
GDPR Compliance for Startups
What is Personal Information Under the CPRA?
Steps to Ensure Operational Resilience
The CCPA Do Not Sell Requirement
Am I a Data Controller or Data Processor?
Service Providers Under CCPA/CPRA
Why Security Does Not Equal Data Privacy
What Does PHI Stand For?
Common GDPR Compliance Mistakes & Pain Points
"Likely to Result in Risk" Under GDPR
Key Elements of a Data Processing Agreement
What Is a Data Processor?
What is a Business Associate Subcontractor?
What You Need To Know About Browser Cookies
How Long Should You Retain Personal Data?
Operational Risk Management
ADPPA Preview
What is a Data Controller?
Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs)
The Importance of Monitoring External Data Breaches
Fraud Risk Factors
Security Awareness Training
5 Steps to Creating a Vendor Management Process
The 18 PHI Identifiers
Notice of Privacy Practices under HIPAA
Data Subject Access Requests
What is a HIPAA Lawyer?
What You Need to Know About Data Encryption
ISO 27001
Types of Financial Risk
SOC 2 Compliance Mistakes
Data Disaster Recovery Plan
The Truth about Data Security
Business Continuity Plans
Security Risk Assessment Overview
How To Comply With the HIPAA Security Rule
How To Ensure GDPR Compliance
The Complete Guide to PCI Compliance
Data Governance in Healthcare
Why is Personal Data Valuable?
8 Steps To Establish a Risk Management Framework
How To Prevent a Former Employee From Becoming a Security Risk
Vendor Risk Management
4 PCI DSS Compliance Levels
The Difference Between DoS and DDoS Attacks
Internet of Things (IoT) Security
Compliance as a Competitive Advantage
SOC 2 Compliance
Opt-In vs. Opt-Out Data Rights
Five Principles of Risk Management
5 Habits of an Effective Privacy Officer
Principles of Data Governance
Data Protection Officer vs. HIPAA Privacy Officer
Personally Identifiable Information (PII)