GDPR: What are the basic principles?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is based on six basic principles that you must take into account when processing personal data.

Basic principles

1. Lawfulness, fairness and transparency

You are obliged to process personal data in a transparent manner with respect for all applicable laws, regulations and rules.

  • lawfulness means that you collect and process data on a legal basis.
  • fairness means that your processing of personal data is in the interest of the person about whom the data is concerned and that the extent of the processing can reasonably be expected by the person.
  • transparency means that you clearly communicate what, how and why you process personel data,

2. Purpose limitation (finality and proportionality)

You may only process personal data for the purpose of your research, and the processing must be reasonable and proportionate to the purpose of your research. The data may also (in principle) not be processed further once that purpose has been achieved.

3. Data minimisation

You may only use the personal data necessary to achieve the objectives of your research.

4. Accuracy

The personal data that you process must be accurate.

5. Storage limitation

The personal data that you process may not be kept longer than necessary for your current research or for possible further analyses of the data. You will need to establish a storage period/retention period or criteria for the personal data; this retention period should be limited to what is necessary and in accordance with the original purposes. However, in the context of scientific research, personal data may be kept for a longer period, given that appropriate technical and organisational measures are taken to protect the rights and freedoms of the data subject.

6. Confidentiality and integrity

As a researcher you must handle personal data confidentially and take appropriate measures to guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of the data so that the data are protected against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage.


The general principle of accountability also applies in this context. You must be able to demonstrate compliance with the principles above.

For this, it is important to ask yourself the following questions: at the start of my research, did I thoroughly consider and document the privacy aspects of my research, and am I able to demonstrate that I have actively taken responsibility for processing personal data in a secure manner? 

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Last modified March 6, 2024, 9 a.m.