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GDPR: What Is Data Processing

What is Data Processing
This post is the second of a series of short blog posts about GDPR. Click here to go to the first blog post

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - I. Montoya

Long time eDiscovery professionals recognize data processing as the method by which data, after it is collected, is prepared for the work we do. The EDRM lays out a clear guidance, for example, on what data processing is and what it means. A very distilled definition is: cataloguing collected data and capturing the associated metadata. These steps, frequently unseen by the end client, take disparate data and make them available for review and/or production. This is well covered ground for eDiscovery pros and we know what it is and how to deal with it.

The GDPR, however, defines data processing in an entirely different and much broader way. The definition of data processing, found in Article 4, is:

[A]ny operation or set of operations which is performed on personal data or on sets of personal data, whether or not by automated means, such as collection, recording, organization, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, restriction, erasure or destruction.

GDPR data processing, then, is defined so broadly as to address virtually any action and even certain passive states of Personal Data. In other words, the full life cycle of the data up through destruction or erasure. In a subsequent post I’ll consider the lawful bases for processing found in Article 6.

Jonathan Swerdloff
Jonathan Swerdloff
Jonathan Swerdloff is a Consultant at Driven, Inc. Prior to joining Driven, Jonathan was a litigation associate at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP, accumulating more than 10 years experience in eDiscovery that included managing large discovery projects, analysis of enterprise systems, and investigations into nontraditional data sources. Through his experience as a litigator and programmer, Jonathan focused primarily on creative problem solving with regard to all data types. He analyzed and produced complex enterprise systems and developed internal workflows for large litigations. He deployed Information Governance strategies, has extensive experience with structured data collection, analysis, and production, and has served as an expert witness. His experience also includes developing cost-saving legal processes, managing legal budgets, and supervising legal personnel. Jonathan is admitted to the bars of New York and Connecticut. He holds a J.D. from the Cardozo School of Law and an MPS from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he studied rapid prototyping and software development. Jonathan is also an adjunct professor at the Parsons School of Design, teaching a Masters-level course in regulatory and ethics contexts for product designers. Jonathan previously served as the Director of Legal Strategy at the Corporate Knowledge Strategies Forum