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.