On September 5, 2018, a first instance Administrative Court in Italy decided that a public company cannot reject an application for the position of data protection officer (“DPO”) on the basis that the applicant is not a certified ISO 27001 Auditor / Lead Auditor (decision available here).

ISO 27001 is an international information security standard. The standard sets out conditions that an individual must meet to become a certified ISO 27001 Auditor / Lead Auditor, such as attending dedicated courses and passing an exam.

The court noted the DPO requirements set out the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), in particular that the “data protection officer shall be designated on the basis of professional qualities and, in particular, expert knowledge of data protection law and practices and the ability to fulfill [its] tasks” (Article 37(5) GDPR).

The court held that an ISO 27001 Auditor / Lead Auditor certification “does not (or does not fully) capture the specific qualities inherent to the task [of DPO], whose main function is not (…) to increase the levels of efficiency and security in the information management, but rather, the ability to safeguard the fundamental right of the individual to the protection of personal data (…)”.  The lack of this certification does not mean that an applicant cannot adequately fulfill the role of a DPO.