In January 2021, the Belgian Supervisory Authority issued detailed guidance (available in Dutch and French) on how to securely destroy personal data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).  Among other things, the guidance aims to help controllers and processors comply with their obligations under Article 32 of the GDPR.

According to the guidance, controllers and processors should implement a procedure for securely destroying personal data.  The procedure should ensure, among other things, that personal data is retained in accordance with pre-determined retention periods and then promptly destroyed in a documented manner.

When establishing such a procedure, controllers and processors should assess the types of personal data that they process and the risks presented by the possibility of data breaches (including unauthorized disclosure and/or data loss).  If a controller or processor identifies any data sets including special categories of personal data when conducting this assessment, they should implement a more robust destruction procedure for such data.  The guidance also recommends that controllers and processors create an inventory of their data storage systems.

The guidance discusses different techniques to destroy personal data, depending on the storage system and format in which the data is retained (e.g., hybrid hard drive, solid state drive, and/or paper).  It briefly mentions anonymization of personal data as a possible means to de-identify personal data, but surprisingly states that anonymization “will not be considered as providing a sufficient level of confidentiality and security […] irrespective of the resources (in time and manpower) necessary for its implementation […]” when compared to other methods of destroying personal data.  Presumably, the Belgian authority makes this broad statement to avoid an overly detailed discussion on what qualifies as anonymization.

Finally, the guidance provides links to other technical guidance papers on data destruction published by industry stakeholders and standardization organizations worldwide.

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Photo of Kristof Van Quathem Kristof Van Quathem

Kristof Van Quathem advises clients on information technology matters and policy, with a focus on data protection, cybercrime and various EU data-related initiatives, such as the Data Act, the AI Act and EHDS.

Kristof has been specializing in this area for over twenty…

Kristof Van Quathem advises clients on information technology matters and policy, with a focus on data protection, cybercrime and various EU data-related initiatives, such as the Data Act, the AI Act and EHDS.

Kristof has been specializing in this area for over twenty years and developed particular experience in the life science and information technology sectors. He counsels clients on government affairs strategies concerning EU lawmaking and their compliance with applicable regulatory frameworks, and has represented clients in non-contentious and contentious matters before data protection authorities, national courts and the Court of the Justice of the EU.

Kristof is admitted to practice in Belgium.

Photo of Anna Oberschelp de Meneses Anna Oberschelp de Meneses

Anna Sophia Oberschelp de Meneses is an associate in the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group.  Anna is a qualified Portuguese lawyer, but is both a native Portuguese and German speaker.  Anna advises companies on European data protection law and helps clients coordinate…

Anna Sophia Oberschelp de Meneses is an associate in the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group.  Anna is a qualified Portuguese lawyer, but is both a native Portuguese and German speaker.  Anna advises companies on European data protection law and helps clients coordinate international data protection law projects.  She has obtained a certificate for “corporate data protection officer” by the German Association for Data Protection and Data Security (“Gesellschaft für Datenschutz und Datensicherheit e.V.”). She is also Certified Information Privacy Professional Europe (CIPPE/EU) by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).  Anna also advises companies in the field of EU consumer law and has been closely tracking the developments in this area.  Her extensive language skills allow her to monitor developments and help clients tackle EU Data Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Law issues in various EU and ROW jurisdictions.