Guidelines 07/2020 on the concepts of controller and processor in the GDPR
Paragraph 3.2.3 Situations where there is no joint controllership
67. The fact that several actors are involved in the same processing does not mean that they are necessarily acting as joint controllers of such processing. Not all kind of partnerships, cooperation or collaboration imply qualification of joint controllers as such qualification requires a case-by-case analysis of each processing at stake and the precise role of each entity with respect to each processing. The cases below provide non-exhaustive examples of situations where there is no joint controllership.
68. For example, the exchange of the same data or set of data between two entities without jointly determined purposes or jointly determined means of processing should be considered as a transmission of data between separate controllers.
Example: Transmission of employee data to tax authorities
A company collects and processes personal data of its employees with the purpose of managing salaries, health insurances, etc. A law imposes an obligation on the company to send all data concerning salaries to the tax authorities, with a view to reinforce fiscal control. In this case, even though both the company and the tax authorities process the same data concerning salaries, the lack of jointly determined purposes and means with regard to this data processing will result in qualifying the two entities as two separate data controllers.
69. Joint controllership may also be excluded in a situation where several entities use a shared database or a common infrastructure, if each entity independently determines its own purposes.
Example: Marketing operations in a group of companies using a shared database:
A group of companies uses the same database for the management of clients and prospects. Such database is hosted on the servers of the mother company who is therefore a processor of the companies with respect to the storage of the data. Each entity of the group enters the data of its own clients and prospects and processes such data for its own purposes only. Also, each entity decides independently on the access, the retention periods, the correction or deletion of their clients and prospects’ data. They cannot access or use each other’s data. The mere fact that these companies use a shared group database does not as such entail joint controllership. Under these circumstances, each company is thus a separate controller.
Example: Independent controllerswhen using a shared infrastructure
Company XYZ hosts a database and makes it available to other companies to process and host personal data about their employees. Company XYZ is a processor in relation to the processing and storage of other companies’ employees as these operations are performed on behalf andaccording to the instructions of these other companies. In addition, the other companies process the data without any involvement from Company XYZ and for purposes which are not in any way shared by Company XYZ.
70. Also, there can be situations where various actors successively process the same personal data in a chain of operations, each of these actors having an independent purpose and independent means in their part of the chain. In the absence of joint participation in the determination of the purposes and means of the same processing operation or set of operations, joint controllership has to be excluded and the various actors must be regarded as successive independent controllers.
Example: Statistical analysis for a task of public interest
A public authority (Authority A) has the legal task of making relevant analysis and statistics onhow the country’s employment rate develops. To do that, many other public entities are legally bound to disclose specific data to Authority A. Authority A decides to use a specific system to process the data, including collection. This also means that the other units are obligated to use the system for their disclosure of data. In this case, without prejudice to any attribution of roles by law, Authority A will be the only controller of the processing for the purpose of analysis and statistics of the employment rate processed in the system, because Authority A determines the purpose for the processing, and has decided how the processing will be organised. Of course, the other public entities, as controllers for their own processing activities, are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the data they previously processed, which they then disclose to Authority A.