Designing legitimate data processing tools
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According to Article 5(1)(a) of the GDPR, personal data shall be “collected for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes”. The concept of legitimacy is not well defined in the GDPR, but the Article 29 Working Party stated that legitimacy involves that data must be processes “in accordance with the law”, and “law” should be understood as a broad concept that includes “all forms of written and common law, primary and secondary legislation, municipal decrees, judicial precedents, constitutional principles, fundamental rights, other legal principles, as well as jurisprudence, as such ‘law’ would be interpreted and taken into account by competent court”.[1]

Therefore, it is a wider concept than lawfulness. It involves compliance with the main values of the applicable regulation and the main ethical principles at stake. For instance, some concrete AI developments will need the intervention of an ethics committee. In other cases, guidelines or any other kind of soft regulation might be applicable. AI developers should ensure adequate compliance with this requirement by designing a plan form this preliminary stage of the lifecycle of the tool (see the “Legitimacy and lawfulness” subsection in the “Lawfulness, fairness and transparency” section in “Principles” chapter). To this purpose, you should be particularly aware of the requirements posed by the applicable regulation at the national level. In many Member states, developing an algorithm related to health care will surely involve the intervention of Ethics Committees, most probably at a preliminary stage. Make sure that your research plan fits well with such requirements.

1Article 29 Working Party (2013) Opinion 03/2013 on purpose limitation Adopted on 2 April 2013, WP203. European Commission, Brussels, p.20. Available at: (accessed: 15 May 2020)


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