Guidelines 02/2018 on Derogations of Article 49 GDPR
Section 2.6 Transfer necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject or of other persons, where the data subject is physically or legally incapable of giving consent – (49 (1) (f))
The derogation of Article 49(1) (f) obviously applies when data is transferred in the event of a medical emergency and where it is considered that such transfer is directly necessary in order to give the medical care required.
Thus, for example, it must be legally possible to transfer data (including certain personal data) if the data subject, whilst outside the EU, is unconscious and in need of urgent medical care, and only a exporter (e.g. his usual doctor), established in an EU Member State, is able to supply these data. In such cases the law assumes that the imminent risk of serious harm to the data subject outweighs data protection concerns.
The transfer must relate to the individual interest of the data subject or to that of another person’s and, when it bears on health data, it must be necessary for an essential diagnosis. Accordingly, this derogation cannot be used to justify transferring personal medical data outside the EU if the purpose of the transfer is not to treat the particular case of the data subject or that of another person’s but, for example, to carry out general medical research that will not yield results until sometime in the future.
Indeed, the GDPR does not restrict the use of this derogation to the physical integrity of a person but also leaves room for example to consider the cases where the mental integrity of a person should be protected. In this case, the person concerned would also be incapable – physically or legally – of providing his/her consent for the transfer of his/her personal data. In addition, the concerned individual whose personal data are the subject of the transfer specifically must not be able to give his/her consent – physically or legally – to this transfer.
However, whenever the data subject has the ability to make a valid decision, and his/her consent can be solicited, then this derogation cannot apply.
For example, where the personal data is required to prevent eviction from a property, this would not fall under this derogation as, eventhough housing be considered as a vital interest, the person concerned can provide his/her consent for the transfer of his/her data.
This ability to make a valid decision can depend on physical, mental but also legal incapability. A legal incapability can encompass, without prejudice to national representation mechanisms, for example, the case of a minor. This legal incapability has to be proved, depending on the case, through either a medical certificate showing the mental incapability of the person concerned or through a governmental document confirming the legal situation of the person concerned.
Data transfers to an international humanitarian organization, necessary to fulfil a task under the Geneva Conventions or to comply with international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict may also fall under Article 49(1)(f), see recital 112. Again, in such cases the data subject needs to be physically or legally incapable of giving consent.
The transfer of personal data after the occurrence of natural disasters and in the context of sharing of personal information with entities and persons for the purpose of rescue and retrieval operations (for example, relatives of disaster victims as well as with government and emergency services), can be justified under this derogation. Such unexpected events (floods, earthquakes, hurricanes etc.) can warrant the urgent transfer of certain personal data to learn for example, the location and status of victims. In such situations it is considered that the data subject concerned is unable to provide his/her consent for the transfer of his/her data.