Guidelines 07/2020 on the concepts of controller and processor in the GDPR
Paragraph 3.2.1 General considerations
47. The definition of a controller in Article 4 (7) GDPR forms the starting point for determining joint controllership. The considerations in this section are thus directly related to and supplement the considerations in the section on the concept of controller. As a consequence, the assessment of joint controllership should mirror the assessment of “single” control developed above.
48. Article 26 GDPR, which reflects the definition in Article 4 (7) GDPR, provides that “[w]here two or more controllers jointly determine the purposes and means of processing, they shall be joint controllers.” In broad terms, joint controllership exists with regard to a specific processing activity when different parties determine jointly the purpose and means of this processing activity. Therefore, assessing the existence of joint controllers requires examining whether the determination of purposes and means that characterize a controller are decided by more than one party. “Jointly” must be interpreted as meaning “together with” or “not alone”, in different forms and combinations, as explained below.
49. The assessment of joint controllership should be carried out on a factual, rather than a formal, analysis of the actual influence on the purposes and means of the processing. All existing or envisaged arrangements should be checked against the factual circumstances regarding the relationship between the parties. A merely formal criterion would not be sufficient for at least two reasons: in some cases, the formal appointment of a joint controller -laid down for example by law or in a contract- would be absent; in other cases, it may be that the formal appointment does not reflect the reality of the arrangements, by formally entrusting the role of controller to an entity which actually is not in the position to “determine” the purposes and means of the processing.
50. Not all processing operations involving several entities give rise to joint controllership. The overarching criterion for joint controllership to exist is the joint participation of two or more entities in the determination of the purposes and means of a processing operation. More specifically, joint participation needs to include the determination ofpurposes on the one hand and the determination of means on the other hand. If each of these elements are determined by all entities concerned, they should be considered as joint controllers of the processing at issue.