A recent CJEU ruling on special categories of personal data may have far reaching implications for online platforms.
On 1 Aug., the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a preliminary ruling on a few legal interpretations referred to them by a Regional Administrative Court in Lithuania. This ruling relates to the processing of special categories of personal data data under Article 9(1) of the EU General Data Protection Regulation and Article 8(1) of Directive 95/46. It may have major implications for online platforms which use tracking and profiling to target users with specific ads based on their behavior. This ruling by the CJEU was regarding whether the publication of the name of a spouse or partner amounted to the processing of sensitive data because it could reveal sexual orientation.
The CJEU addressed the interpretation of some articles of the GDPR and the Directive 95/46, broadening the spectrum of what is recognized as personal data.
The main issue addressed by the court was whether Article 9(1) of the EU General Data Protection Regulation and Article 8(1) of Directive 95/46 should be interpreted as meaning the online publication “of personal data that are liable to disclose indirectly the political opinions, trade union membership or sexual orientation of a natural person constitutes processing of special categories of personal data, for the purpose of those provisions.” The CJEU ruled that the interpretation of personal data should in fact be so broad as to recognize that “it is possible to deduce from the name-specific data relating to the spouse, cohabitee or partner of the declarant certain information concerning the sex life or sexual orientation of the declarant and his or her spouse, cohabitee or partner.”
The CJEU further clarified that the context of the data plays a vital role in its categorisation as “special categories of personal data.”
The CJEU considered not only the wording of the legislation but emphasised the importance of its context and objectives, in arriving at this determination that “data that are capable of revealing the sexual orientation of a natural person by means of an intellectual operation involving comparison or deduction fall within the special categories of personal data.” This rule will furthermore apply to inferences connected to other types of special category data.