Disclaimer: I’m a Software Engineer who has spent a bunch of time working on issues relating to the GDPR from a systems design/security/process point of view. I’m definitely not a lawyer so this is my perspective and not legal advice. If you want legal advice, get a lawyer.
Question: Is my personal project subject to the GDPR?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects the personal data of EU residents who are in the EU. This regulation comes into effect 25th May 2018 (see Article 51/Paragraph 4) and has been designed to bring personal data protection up to date as the previous directive (Directive 95/46/EC) was adopted in 1995 and had fallen well behind in being able to cover modern day data protection issues.
So you have a personal project which includes storage and processing of personal data, perhaps online (but perhaps it’s not even a computer based system – this regulation covers any data processing which has data in a filing system).
First things first – your project is not covered by the GDPR unless the personal data in it includes EU residents – for more information please see http://blog.bjdean.id.au/2018/05/territorial-scope-of-the-gdpr/ .
If your project is covered based on Territorial Scope then (just for personal projects) if your project is run by a “natural person” and if the nature of the work of the project is that it is “in the course of a purely personal or household activity” then it is explicitly not covered by the GDPR in Article 2. “Material Scope” Paragraph (2c).
The nature of a “household activity” is not clearly defined – certainly it’s not in the Definitions of the regulation. Some vague examples are given in Recital (18) : “Personal or household activities could include correspondence and the holding of addresses, or social networking and online activity undertaken within the context of such activities.”.
That the burden of proof is going to be on the controller (you, for your personal project). Exactly what qualifies as a household activity would seem to be something that would vary depending on the nature of the household, but you would be hard-pressed to claim that your particular household typically harvests, stores and processes EU resident personal data in bulk. In addition Recital (18) does specify that the activity should have “no connection to a professional or commercial activity” so even if your household is all about data processing, as it’s a professional and/or commercial activity it’s still going to be covered by the GDPR.
Extracts from the GDPR
The following extracts from the GDPR cover the issues discussed above – I have used bold text to highlight specific parts.
This Regulation does not apply to the processing of personal data by a natural person in the course of a purely personal or household activity and thus with no connection to a professional or commercial activity. Personal or household activities could include correspondence and the holding of addresses, or social networking and online activity undertaken within the context of such activities. However, this Regulation applies to controllers or processors which provide the means for processing personal data for such personal or household activities.
Article 2. Material scope
(1) This Regulation applies to the processing of personal data wholly or partly by automated means and to the processing other than by automated means of personal data which form part of a filing system or are intended to form part of a filing system.
(2) This Regulation does not apply to the processing of personal data:
(c) by a natural person in the course of a purely personal or household activity;
Article 4. Definitions
For the purposes of this Regulation:
(6) ‘filing system’ means any structured set of personal data which are accessible according to specific criteria, whether centralised, decentralised or dispersed on a functional or geographical basis;
(7) ‘controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law;