Guidelines 07/2020 on the concepts of controller and processor in the GDPR
SECTION 5 DEFINITION OF THIRD PARTY/RECIPIENT
83. The Regulation not only defines the concepts of controller and processor but also the concepts of recipient and third party. As opposed to the concepts of controller and processor, the Regulation does not lay down specific obligations or responsibilities for recipients and third parties. These can be said to be relative concepts in the sense that they describe a relation to a controller or processor from a specific perspective, e.g. a controller or processor discloses data to a recipient. A recipient of personal data and a third party may well simultaneously be regarded as a controller or processor from other perspectives. For example, entities that are to be seen as recipients or third parties from one perspective, are controllers for the processing for which they determine the purpose and means.
84. Article 4 (10) defines a “third party” as a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or body other than
the data subject,
the processor and
persons who, under the direct authority of the controller or processor, are authorised to process personal data.
85. The definition generally corresponds to the previous definition of “thirdparty” in Directive95/46/EC.
86. Where as the terms “personal data”, “data subject”, “controller” and “processor” are defined in the Regulation, the concept of “persons who, under the direct authority of the controller or processor, are authorised to process personal data” is not. It is, however, generally understood as referring to persons that belong to the legal entity of the controller or processor (an employee or a role highly comparable to that of employees, e.g. interim staff provided via a temporary employment agency) but only insofar as they are authorized to process personal data. An employee etc. who obtains access to data that he or she is not authorised to access and for other purposes than that of the employer does not fall within this category. Instead, this employee should be considered as a third party vis-à-vis the processing undertaken by the employer. Insofar as the employee processes personal data for his or her own purposes, distinct from those of his or her employer, he or she will then be considered a controller and take on all the resulting consequences and liabilities in terms of personal data processing.
87. A third party thus refers to someone who, in the specific situation at hand, is not a data subject, a controller, a processor or an employee. For example, the controller may hire a processor and instruct it to transfer personal data to a third party. This third party will then be considered a controller in its own right for the processing that it carries out for its own purposes. It should be noted that, within a group of companies, a company other than the controller or the processor is a third party, eventhough it belongs to the same group as the company who acts as controller or processor.
Example: Cleaning services
Company A concludes a contract with a cleaning service company to clean its offices. The cleaners are not supposed to access or otherwise process personal data. Eventhough they may occasionally come across such data when moving around in the office, they can carry out their task without accessing data and they are contractually prohibited to access or otherwise process personal data that Company A keeps as controller. The cleaners are not employed by Company A nor are they seen as being under the direct authority of that company. There is no intention to engage the cleaning service company or its employees to process personal data on Company A’s behalf. The cleaning service company and its employees are therefore to be seen as a third party and the controller must make sure that there are adequate security measures to prevent that they have access to data and lay down a confidentiality duty in case they should accidentally come across personal data.
Example:Company groups – parent company and subsidiaries
Companies X and Y form part of the Group Z. Companies X and Y both process data about their respective employees for employee administration purposes. At one point, the parent company ZZ decides to request employee data from all subsidiaries in order to produce group wide statistics. When transferring data from companies X and Y to ZZ, the latter is to be regarded as a third party regardless of the fact that all companies are part of the same group. Company ZZ will be regarded as controller for its processing of the data for statistical purposes.
88. Article 4 (9) defines a “recipient” as a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or another body, to which the personal data are disclosed, whether a third party or not. Public authorities are however not to be seen as recipients when they receive personal data in the framework of a particular inquiry in accordance with Union or Member State law (e.g. tax and customs authorities, financial investigation units etc.)
89. The definition generally corresponds to the previous definition of “recipient” in Directive95/46/EC.
90. The definition covers anyone who receives personal data, whether they are a third party or not. For example, when a controller sends personal data to an other entity, either a processor or a third party, this entity is a recipient. A third party recipient shall be considered a controller for any processing that it carries out for its own purpose (s) after it receives the data.
Example: Disclosure of data between companies
The travel agency ExploreMore arranges travels on request from its individual customers. Within this service, they send the customers’ personal data to airlines, hotels and organisations of excursions in order for them to carry out their respective services. ExploreMore, the hotels, airlines and excursion providers are each to be seen as controllers for the processing that they carry out within their respective services. There is no controller – processor relation. However, the airlines, hotels and excursion providers are to be seen as recipients when receiving the personal data from ExploreMore.