1. Introduction

The European Commission is committed to protect your personal data and to respect your privacy. The European Commission collects and further processes personal data pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data (repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001).

This privacy statement explains the reason for the processing of your personal data, the way we collect, handle and ensure protection of all personal data provided, how that information is used and what rights you have in relation to your personal data. It also specifies the contact details of the responsible Data Controller with whom you may exercise your rights, the Data Protection Officer and the European Data Protection Supervisor.

This privacy statement concerns the processing of personal data by the European Commission when handling initial and confirmatory requests for access to documents lodged under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, undertaken by the unit ‘Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents’ in the Secretariat-General (horizontal Data Controller on behalf of the European Commission) and by the units responsible for dealing with initial requests for access to documents in the competent Commission department or service (de facto Data Controller on behalf of the European Commission).

2. Why and how do we process your personal data?

Purpose of the processing operation: the European Commission collects and uses your personal data in order to handle requests for access to documents lodged under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 within the prescribed legal deadlines and to establish an annual statistical report as required by Article 17(1) of the latter regulation. The personal data may be processed for the purpose of following up on an inquiry by the European Ombudsman or in case of court proceedings.

Your personal data will not be used for an automated decision-making including profiling.

The European Commission processes your personal data, because:

  • processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest (Article 5(1)(a) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725); and
  • processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the European Commission is subject (Article 5(1)(b) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725).

Furthermore, the processing of non-compulsory personal data you provide in your request for access to documents (see section 4 below) is based on your consent (Article 5(1)(d) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725).

The processing pursuant to Articles 5(1)(a) and (b) needs to be based on Union law, namely Article 15(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

4. Which personal data do we collect and process?

The personal data collected and further processed are:

a) Personal data, provided by the applicant via the online form:

  • Compulsory data: Name (first name, last name), specific contact details (e-mail and postal address, country of residence), subject of the request (it may contain personal data in case it relates to an identified or identifiable natural person);
  • Non-compulsory data: other contact details (telephone and telefax numbers), category and organisation;

b) Personal data, which the applicant provided in his/her application, submitted in another electronic or paper format;

c) Personal data contained in the documents requested if released under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, as well as in the reply to the application and in related correspondence with the applicant.

d) When there are reasonable doubts concerning the identity of the natural person making the request, the European Commission may ask the applicant to provide a copy of an identification document (for example, a passport or identity card) in order to verify his/her identity, in the following exceptional circumstances:

  • where the documents concerned by the request contain the applicant’s own personal data and the applicant is granted individual access to such documents;
  • where there are legitimate reasons to consider that the right to access stemming from Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 is being abused by that particular applicant.

The identification document should contain the applicant’s name and, if applicable, his/her postal address, while any other data such as a photograph or any personal characteristics may be blacked out.

5. How long do we keep your personal data?

The European Commission only keeps your personal data for the time necessary to fulfil the purpose of collection or further processing, namely no longer than five years after the closure of a case-file.

At the initial stage, a file is considered closed after the initial decision of the European Commission has become final (i.e. there was no confirmatory application), unless follow-up is required by an enquiry of the European Ombudsman.

In such case, a file is considered closed if the European Ombudsman has closed its enquiry in relation to the complaint without any need for further action on the part of the European Commission with regard to the application for access to documents.

At the confirmatory stage, a file is considered closed after the confirmatory decision of the European Commission has become final, namely:

  • the deadline for bringing proceedings before the EU Courts has elapsed; or
  • the EU Court confirmed the confirmatory decision; or
  • the European Commission completed the follow-up requested by the EU Court in its Judgment.

A file is not considered closed despite the confirmatory decision being final in case of an enquiry of the European Ombudsman requiring follow-up. In such case, a file is considered closed if the latter has closed its enquiry in relation to the complaint without any need for further action on the part of the Commission with regard to the application for access to documents.

This ‘administrative retention period’ of five years is based on the retention policy of European Commission documents and files (and the personal data contained in them), governed by the common Commission-level retention list for European Commission files SEC(2019)900. It is a regulatory document in the form of a retention schedule that establishes the retention periods for different types of European Commission files. That list has been notified to the European Data Protection Supervisor.

The ‘administrative retention period’ is the period during which the European Commission departments are required to keep a file depending on its usefulness for administrative purposes and the relevant statutory and legal obligations. This period begins to run from the time when the file is closed.

In accordance with the common Commission-level retention list, after the ‘administrative retention period’, files concerning requests for access to documents (and the personal data contained in them) can be transferred to the Historical Archives of the European Commission for historical purposes (for the processing operations concerning the Historical Archives, please see notifications DPO-1530.4 ARES-NOMCOM. ARES (Advanced Records System) et NOMCOM (Nomenclature Commune), DPO-3871-3 Notification for the digital archival repository and ARCHISscanning' and 'DPO-2806-5 Gestion des dossiers papier structurés par nom de personnes et transférés aux Archives Historiques'.).

The use of information contained in an identification document of an applicant (see section 4 above) is strictly limited: the data will only be used to verify the identity of the applicant and will not be stored for longer than necessary for this purpose.    

6. How do we protect your personal data?

All data in electronic format (e-mails, documents, uploaded batches of data etc.) are stored either on the servers of the European Commission or of its contractors. Their operations abide by the Commission Decision (EU, Euratom) 2017/46 of 10 January 2017 on the security of communication and information systems in the European Commission.

The European Commission’s contractors are bound by a specific contractual clause for any processing operations of your personal data on behalf of the European Commission, and by the confidentiality obligations deriving from the transposition of the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU Member States.

In order to protect your personal data, the European Commission has put in place a number of technical and organisational measures. Technical measures include appropriate actions to address online security, risk of data loss, alteration of data or unauthorised access, taking into consideration the risk presented by the processing and the nature of the personal data being processed. Organisational measures include restricting access to the personal data solely to authorised persons with a legitimate need to know for the purposes of this processing operation.

7. Who has access to your personal data and to whom are they disclosed?

Access to your personal data is provided to authorised staff of the European Commission responsible for carrying out the processing operation and according to the ‘need to know’ principle. Such staff abide by statutory, and when required, additional confidentiality agreements.

Personal data that appear in the documents requested may be disclosed to the public following an assessment under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, read in conjunction with Article 9 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725. If you reside outside the EU and the European Commission grants you access to documents, personal data included in these documents will only be disclosed to you if such transfer fulfils the conditions of Chapter V of the Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 on transfers of personal data to third countries or international organisations.

The personal information we collect on the applicants who request access to documents will not be given to any third party, except:

  • to the extent and for the purpose we may be required to do so by law; and
  • for the purpose of dispatching access-to-documents decisions of the European Commission by registered mail via the processor DHL International (established in Belgium) (for further information, see corresponding notification ‘DPO-1258 Traitement du courrier’ of the European Commission’s Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels).

Pursuant to point (13) of Article 3 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725, public authorities which may receive personal data in the framework of a particular inquiry in accordance with Union or Member State law shall not be regarded as recipients. The further processing of those data by those public authorities shall be in compliance with the applicable data protection rules according to the purposes of the processing.

Decisions of the European Commission pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 on confirmatory applications are adopted through Decide (the information system supporting the Commission decision-making process) and are made available on the European Commission’s (non-public) VISTA system. For information concerning the processing of personal data through the Decide and VISTA systems, please see the respective records of processing operations ‘DPR-EC-00107.1 Decide (information system supporting the Commission decision-making process’ and ‘DPR-EC-00914.1 VISTA system’.  

8. What are your rights and how can you exercise them?

You have specific rights as a ‘data subject’ under Chapter III (Articles 14-25) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725. As regards this processing operation, you can exercise the following rights:

  • right to access your personal data (Article 17 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725);
  • right to rectification in case your personal data are inaccurate or incomplete (Article 18 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725);
  • where applicable, the right to restrict the processing of your personal data (Article 20 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725) and the right to data portability (Article 22 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725); and
  • as long as the reply to the request for access to documents has not yet been issued, the right to erasure of your personal data (Article 19 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725) and the right to object to the processing of your personal data on grounds relating to your particular situation (Article 23 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725). As a consequence of exercising these two rights, the respective request for access to documents would become obsolete.

Insofar the processing of your personal data is based on your consent (namely concerning non-mandatory personal data as described under sections 3 and 4 above) you can withdraw your consent at any time by notifying the Data Controller. The withdrawal will not affect the lawfulness of the processing carried out before you have withdrawn the consent.

You can exercise your rights by contacting the Data Controller, or in case of conflict the Data Protection Officer. If necessary, you can also address the European Data Protection Supervisor. Their contact information is given under section 'Contact information' below.

Where you wish to exercise your rights in the context of one or several specific processing operations, please provide their description (i.e. their Record reference(s) as specified under section 10 ‘Where to find information that is more detailed’ below) in your request.

Any request for access to personal data will be handled within one month. Any other request mentioned above will be addressed within 15 working days as after receipt of the request by the Data Controller.

9. Contact information

  • The (horizontal) Data Controller:

If you would like to exercise your rights under Regulation (EU) 2018/1725, or if you have comments, questions or concerns, or if you would like to submit a complaint regarding the collection and use of your personal data, please feel free to contact the Data Controller

  • Secretariat-General
  • Unit C.1 – Transparency, Document Management & Access to Document
  • E-mail: Sg-acc-doc@ec.europa.eu
  • The Data Protection Officer (DPO) of the European Commission:

  You may contact the Data Protection Officer (DATA-PROTECTION-OFFICER@ec.europa.eu) with regard to issues related to the processing of your personal data under Regulation (EU) 2018/1725.

  • The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS):

You have the right to have recourse (i.e. you can lodge a complaint) to the European Data Protection Supervisor (edps@edps.europa.eu) if you consider that your rights under Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 have been infringed as a result of the processing of your personal data by the Data Controller.

10. Where to find information that is more detailed?

The Data Protection Officer of the European Commission publishes the register of all processing operations on personal data by the Commission, which have been documented and notified to him. You may  access the register at the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/dpo-register.

This specific processing operation has been included in the DPO’s public register with the following Record reference: DPR-EC-00793.