Archiving, scientific and historical research under the GDPR

Art. 89 governs the processing of personal data for purposes of archiving in the public interest or for scientific, historical or statistical research. Such processing is subjected to appropriate safeguards (see Data Transfers, Art. 44-49) that ensure appropriate technical and organizational measures (TOMs, e.g., pseudonymization), particularly regarding data minimization.

National laws of Member States are allowed to introduce limitations to the data subject’s rights, if they are expected to pose difficulties to the achievement of scientific or historical research, statistical purposes or a public interest. For example, the right to erasure does not apply to the data that is processed for these purposes (Recital 65).

Where the processing is carried out for such archiving and research purposes, it is not always necessary to comply with the information requirements laid down by the GDPR, especially if such provision of information is impossible or would involve a disproportionate effort (Art. 14(5)b, 17(3)d).

Scientific research

Although “scientific research’’ is not defined, Recital 159 clarifies that the processing for scientific research purposes should include, e.g., technological development and demonstration, fundamental research, applied research and privately-funded research.

Data subjects are allowed to consent to certain areas of scientific research–rather than precise purposes–as it is often impossible to completely identify the purpose of scientific research at the time of data collection (Recital 33).

Consenting to the participation in clinical trials is governed by the European Clinical Trials Regulation (Recital 161), and processing scientific purposes should also comply with other relevant legislation, such as on clinical trials (Recital 156).