Special Category Data

Special Category Data

As laid out in the GDPR, special category data is personal data that GDPR says is more sensitive and therefore requires more protection. 

Special Category personal data is information relating to:

  • racial or ethnic origin; 
  • political opinions;
  • religious or philosophical beliefs;
  • trade union membership;
  • genetic or biometric data processed for the purpose of identification;
  • health;
  • sex life or sexual orientation.

To lawfully process special category data you must identify both a lawful basis under Article 6 of the GDPR and separate conditions for processing special category data under Article 9 (2) of the GDPR. 

The conditions for processing do not have to be linked. You must determine your conditions for processing special category data before you process the data under GDPR and this should be documented. 

Article 9 (2) of the GDPR states that the below conditions for processing special category data can be used:

  • Explicit consent has been given by the individual;
  • Processing is required to comply with employment legislation, social security, or social protection legislation;
  • Processing is necessary to safeguard the vital interests of the individual;
  • The information has already been made public by the individual;
  • Processing is necessary in connection with legal proceedings;
  • Processing is necessary for the administration of justice;
  • Processing is necessary for medical reasons or public interest in relation to public health;
  • Processing is necessary for archiving, scientific or historical research, or statistical purposes. 

Additional conditions apply to the processing of, and research on, personal and special category personal data. See the A to Z entry on research for further guidance.