GDPR Article 30: A Comprehensive Guide

There have been many incidents where companies mishandle user data resulting in several cyber-attacks, including data breaches. While many countries haven’t paid much attention to this issue, the European Union has become a global trendsetter in setting laws regarding data privacy, such as GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation, enacted in May 2018, has inspired and encouraged many other countries through its revolutionary policies. 


Over the years, Article 30 of GDPR has gained much attention due to its strict policies on businesses and fines for non-compliance. Since its implementation, at least 1,163 fines have been issued for violations of the law. GDPR implements several policies on businesses and organizations that handle user data. 


What is GDPR Article 30?


What is the Record of Processing Activities (RoPA)?


What are the requirements of Article 30?


What does it mean to be GDPR compliant?


How can businesses comply with Article 30?


Experts at CyberArrow have made a comprehensive guide based on their knowledge to shed light on GDPR Article 30, its requirements, and how businesses can comply with it. 


What is GDPR Article 30?


Article 30 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires “the controllers and processors of an organization who handle personal data to maintain a record of processing activities (RoPA)”.


It highlights the declaration of various data processing principles. The main aim of this article is to promote accountability by enabling the controller to keep track of its data processing activities and make changes where necessary. Also, it enhances the transparency of data processing for data subjects and enables them to exercise their rights easily. 


What is the Record of Processing Activities (RoPA)?


According to Article 30 of GDPR, a Record of Processing Activities (RoPA) is a comprehensive overview of all your activities related to data processing, including how you store data, process it, and for how long data is being stored at your end and other important details about processing. GDPR requires controllers and processors to keep the record in written as well as electronic form, and they must ensure its availability upon the request of a supervisory authority.


The majority of controllers and processors are obliged to maintain RoPA. Many organizations have a misconception that it is necessary for larger companies only. While companies smaller than 250 employees are exempted from keeping RoPA, there are cases where they must hold a record, such as small companies processing personal data related to criminal convictions or offenses. The following factors exempt smaller organizations from keeping a record of processing activities:   


  • The data processing may not pose any risk to the freedom and rights of the data subject.


  • If special categories of data are not processed. For instance, data related to criminal records, religious affiliations, and health data of employees.   


  • If companies process data occasionally. 


What are the requirements of Article 30?


According to GDPR Article 30, RoPA must include the following information: 


  • The name and contact details of the controller, processor, joint controller, and the data protection officer (DPO), where applicable. Moreover, the contact details shouldn’t only include the name or email address but all elements of contact, including physical address, phone number, etc., making it possible for the supervisory authority to contact that person for inspection if needed. 


  • The purpose of data processing is to demonstrate the legal basis of the processing operations. The controller must be able to demonstrate the legal basis on which the process relies as well as its compliance with GDPR.


  • The categories of data subjects as well as the categories of personal data. For instance, data subjects may be website visitors, clinic patients, employees, etc., and personal data may include website clicks, diagnosis, and union affiliations.


  • The categories of recipients with whom personal data is shared or disclosed. The controller must keep track of individual recipients. 


  • Information regarding the transfer of personal data to third countries or international organizations. 


  • The time frame planned to erase personal data records as well as the security measures implemented to keep that data protected and secure. 


Why is it important?


In a world where data privacy has become the biggest concern for many people, Article 30 of GDPR enforces regulations on businesses to keep a record of data processing to refrain it from falling into the wrong hands. We live in a world where we share our sensitive information online. Whether we shop or pay bills online, we entrust businesses to keep our data secure. 


The significance of Article 30 is to not only provide data processing records to data subjects but also comply with GDPR and protect data so that a data breach doesn’t occur due to carelessness. Many countries have no federal regulation for data privacy, including the United States, where each state is on its own. At this time, Article 30 of GDPR fits well where data privacy is necessary to meet customers’ expectations and increase brand reputation. 


Creating and maintaining RoPA


Under GDPR Article 30, companies are required to create and maintain records of processing activities known as RoPA. This provides an overview of all the processing operations. Generally, the heads of the department are responsible for creating and maintaining ROPA, while a Data processing officer (DPO) can provide supervision and support if necessary. For creating and maintaining RoPA, companies can do the following:


Identify processes


First, you must determine and gather all the information through audit or data mapping activities to help you clarify what kind of data is processed and how. To do so, you can meet the key departments, such as HR, Marketing and Sales, etc. Secondly, you can identify other relevant information in existing documentation, such as data retention and protection policies, system use procedures, and data sharing agreements. Reviewing the details in these documents can help you identify actual data processing activities. 


Document processing activities


As mentioned above, Article 30 requires documentation of your processing activities in written as well as electronic form. Maintaining RoPA requires you to document in a granular or logical way so that the varying categories of data subjects or processing purposes are documented in a meaningful way to meet the GDPR’s documentation requirements.


Also, templates are available for controllers and processors to help them document processing activities properly. RoPA for processors is generally less comprehensive than that of controllers as controllers have to add more information, including the purpose of processing, categories of data, etc. Hence, maintaining RoPA depends on the complexity and structure of your company. However, RoPA must be structured in a way that it fulfills obligations under Art. 24 GDPR (controller’s responsibility), Art. 5(2) (accountability), and Art. 30 (RoPA). The documentation about processing activities must be comprehensible for supervisory authorities. 


Update regularly


RoPA enables regulators to get an overview of your current data processing activities, making it necessary to update RoPA regularly. If any changes are made to the processing conditions, such as adding new categories, advanced data purposes, or adding third recipients, RoPA must also be updated. To ensure accurate and up-to-date documentation, you can execute regular audits and reviews of your processing activities. 


What does it mean to be GDPR compliant?


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a set of rules that requires businesses to secure sensitive information of EU citizens. Whether the business operates in Europe internally or externally, it is required to abide by the regulation as long as it handles the data of EU citizens. According to GDPR, businesses must notify their site visitors about data collection and ask for consent to collect their information. Also, websites must notify them if any of their personal information held by the business is breached. 


At its core, to be GDPR compliant means that any organization falling under the scope of GDPR must handle personal data securely as required by the law. It requires you to apply 7 principles to your electronic data.


  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Data minimization
  • Accuracy
  • Storage limitation
  • Integrity and confidentiality
  • Accountability


There is no specific certification or checklist for organizations to prove their compliance with GDPR. Several third-party providers or consulting companies like CyberArrow are operating to help organizations design a GDPR framework and help them assess their practices. 


What is GDPR data mapping?


                                                                      Image source: Vista InfoSec


Data mapping is an integral component of GDPR. This initial process of compliance helps organizations understand and determine how data is collected, stored, processed, and flows across the organization. It ensures organizations fulfill all legal requirements under the GDPR, including conducting data protection, impact assessments, or responding to requests of data subjects. Moreover, it is an essential requirement of GDPR Articles 30 and 36, where documentation of processing is necessary before processing critical data. 


Organizations can conduct data mapping processes in two ways, including manual data mapping or automated data mapping. Conducting data mapping manually involves information gathering through manual processes, such as questionnaires or interviews via in-person or paper surveys. Automated data mapping involves advanced technology and tools to gather the necessary information to identify the data flow. 


Key elements of data mapping


  • Data mapping enables businesses to maintain RoPA.
  • It helps them track data flow.
  • Enable effective data management and protection.
  • Enable easy access to data whenever required.
  • Help organize, catalog, and manage data.


What are the effects of GDPR?


GDPR affects consumers and businesses differently. While customers can benefit from strict laws made to protect their personal data, businesses have to follow those laws to abide by the regulations. EU-based organizations must comply with GDPR, whether they process data in the EU or not.


Furthermore, non-EU-based organizations must also comply with GDPR if they offer goods or services to EU citizens. Consumers are the ones benefiting the most from GDPR as this regulation focuses on their privacy and security. On the other hand, businesses have to face heavy penalties in the event of non-compliance. 


GDPR has gained much popularity globally due to its significant improvements in governance, awareness, monitoring, and strategic policies to protect consumer data. Companies have revamped their approach to handling customer data and its privacy and security. 


Putting data privacy to the forefront, GDPR has inspired many other countries to create policies of their own. Different states in the US, including California, Vermont, Colorado, Nevada, and Massachusetts, have introduced their own regulations to protect consumer data.  


How does GDPR impact businesses?


While non-compliance with GDPR can cause severe consequences for businesses, including heavy fines and penalties, compliance with GDPR can reap several benefits for them. GDPR has the following impact on businesses:


Expanded disclosure


Under GDPR, companies are required to be able to describe the data they collect, for what purpose, and how it is stored and processed. This positively impacts the business by enabling it to secure customer data and protecting it from a data breach at organizations. 


User control


Companies are required to offer users more control over the data they process and how customers want their data to be handled. Moreover, consumers can demand a copy of their data and ask to delete or amend it if needed, in addition to the right to consent to whether they want their data to be shared with a third-party company or not.  


Many businesses may find it challenging; nevertheless, doing so will not only prove their compliance with GDPR but also enhance customer trust in their brand.


Downstream compliance


GDPR also requires third-party companies to be compliant with regulations. The business will be held responsible if any violation occurs via a third party. Companies need to ensure that whom they outsource their work are GDPR compliant; otherwise, the liability can fall onto the business’s shoulders.   


How can businesses comply with Article 30?


As mentioned above, Article 30 of GDPR requires businesses to maintain a record of processing activities. Businesses can comply with Article 30 of GDPR by:


Data Mapping


To ensure compliance with Article 30, you must ensure effective data collection within regulations. Data mapping is crucial to do so. While security is critical for protecting personal information, data mapping is vital to help figure out how data will be retrieved. It can also help organizations respond to requests for data subjects. 


Maintaining RoPA


Maintaining RoPA is extremely critical in the data collection process. Each controller must have a record of processing activities. It may be challenging to maintain RoPA due to the immense details it requires to ensure effectiveness. But it plays a vital role in solving compliance with Article 30.


Automation & best practices


While automating processing may have pros and cons, automating RoPA can help employees oversee other important things. However, if any aspect of the automation process fails, the whole system can fail, causing the company large fines. It is essential to ensure automation is done correctly and working properly. 


In a world where there are several service providers, you can rely on CyberArrow consulting and compliance services to set your processes on automation through rigorous testing. 

Amar Basic
Amar Basic


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