Data Protection Directive

Definition & Meaning:

The Data Protection Directive, formally known as Directive 95/46/EC, was an important piece of European Union legislation adopted in 1995 to regulate the processing of personal data within the EU.

Its primary aim was to protect the privacy and protection of all personal data collected for or about citizens of the EU, including how that data is collected, processed, stored, and shared across borders.

The directive sought to give individuals more control over their personal data while harmonizing data privacy laws across Europe, making it easier for businesses to operate across national boundaries.

Under the Data Protection Directive, personal data was defined as any information related to an identified or identifiable natural person.
This could include names, addresses, phone numbers, and online identifiers such as IP addresses.

The directive mandated that such data could only be processed with the subject’s consent for legitimate purposes and must be kept secure and confidential.

For example, if a company based in any EU country wanted to send customer data to another country for processing, it had to ensure that the level of protection offered in the other country was comparable to that required by the directive.

This rule applies whether the data is being sent from one EU country to another or outside the EU.

The directive also established the role of Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) in each member state, tasked with ensuring compliance with the rules.

These authorities had the power to investigate complaints, issue penalties, and provide guidance on data protection practices. However, the Data Protection Directive was replaced by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25, 2018.

The GDPR was built upon the principles of the directive but provided a more comprehensive and unified framework for data protection within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA).

It introduced stricter consent requirements, broader rights for data subjects, such as the right to be forgotten, and significant penalties for non-compliance.