Data Protected - Netherlands
Last updated June 2022
General | Data Protection Laws
National Supervisory Authority
Scope of Application
Sensitive Personal Data
Data Protection Officers
Accountability and Privacy Impact Assessments
Rights of Data Subjects
Transfer of Personal Data to Third Countries
ePrivacy | Marketing and cookies
General | Data Protection Laws
General data protection laws
The General Data Protection Regulation (EU) (2016/679) (“GDPR”).
The Dutch GDPR Implementation Act (Uitvoeringswet Algemene Verordening gegevensbescherming) (“UAVG”) has applied in the Netherlands since 25 May 2018. The former Personal Data Protection Act (Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens) has ceased to apply. The UAVG is to a large extent identical to the old Dutch Personal Data Protection Act.
Entry into force
The GDPR has applied since 25 May 2018.
National Supervisory Authority
Details of the competent national supervisory authority
Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens) ("DPA"). The Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens was formerly known as the College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens.
PO Box 93374
2509 AJ Den Haag
2594 AV DEN HAAG
The DPA will represent the Netherlands on the European Data Protection Board.
Notification or registration scheme and timing
There is no obligation to notify regulators of any processing under the GDPR. However, controllers and processors must keep a record of their processing and make it available to their supervisory authority on request (subject to limited exemptions).
Exemptions to notification
Scope of Application
What is the territorial scope of application?
The GDPR applies to the processing of personal data in the context of the establishment of a controller or processor in the EU.
It also contains express extra-territorial provisions and will apply to controllers or processors based outside the EU that: (i) offer goods or services to individuals in the EU; or (ii) monitor individuals within the EU. Controllers and processors caught by these provisions will need to appoint a representative in the EU, subject to certain limited exemptions.
The European Data Protection Board has issued Guidelines on the territorial scope of the GDPR (3/2018).
As regards its territorial scope, the UAVG primarily applies to the processing of personal data in the context of the activities of the establishment of a controller or a processor in the Netherlands.
It will also apply to the processing by a controller or processor not established in the Netherlands of the personal data of data subjects who are in the Netherlands, where the processing activities are related to: (i) the offering of goods or services, irrespective of whether a payment of the data subject is required, to such data subjects in the Netherlands; or (ii) the monitoring of their behaviour to the extent that their behaviour takes place within the Netherlands.
Is there a concept of a controller and processor?
Yes. The GDPR contains the concept of a controller, who determines the purpose and means of processing, and a processor, who just processes personal data on behalf of the controller.
The European Data Protection Board has issued Guidelines on the concepts of controller and processor in the GDPR (7/2020).
Both controllers and processors are subject to the rules in the GDPR, but the obligations placed on processors are more limited.
Are both manual and electronic records subject to data protection legislation?
Yes. The GDPR applies to both electronic records and structured hard copy records.
Are there any national derogations?
The GDPR does not apply to law enforcement activities which are instead subject to the Law Enforcement Directive. The GDPR also does not apply to areas of law that are outside the scope of Union law, such as national security, and does not apply to purely personal or household activity.
The UAVG provides for some national derogations. For example, the scope of automated individual decision-making is extended. Furthermore, the GDPR rules will, in principle, not apply to: (i) the processing of personal data relating to criminal investigations; or (ii) processing exclusively for journalistic purposes or for the purposes of academic, artistic or literary forms of expression.
In addition, it will not be possible to withdraw consent to process personal data for journalistic purposes, for example to withdraw consent to publication of or broadcasting an interview once given.
What is personal data?
Personal data is information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.
This is a broad term and includes a wide range of information. The GDPR expressly states it includes online identifiers such as cookies.
Is information about legal entities personal data?
No. However, information about sole traders and partnerships is likely to be personal data.
What are the rules for processing personal data?
All processing of personal data must comply with all six general data quality principles. Personal data must be: (i) processed fairly, lawfully and transparently; (ii) collected for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes and not processed in a manner incompatible with those purposes; (iii) adequate, relevant and not excessive; (iv) accurate and, where necessary, up to date; (v) kept in an identifiable form for no longer than necessary; and (vi) kept secure.
The processing of personal data must also satisfy at least one condition for processing personal data. These conditions are that the processing is: (a) carried out with the data subject’s consent; (b) necessary for the performance of a contract with the data subject; (c) necessary for compliance with a legal obligation; (d) necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject; (e) necessary for the public interest or in the exercise of official authority; or (f) necessary for the controller’s or recipient’s legitimate interests, except where overridden by the interests of the data subject.
These rules are almost identical to the core requirements for processing personal data in the old Data Protection Directive. The European Data Protection Board has issued Guidelines on the performance of a contract processing condition for online services (2/2019).
Are there any formalities to obtain consent to process personal data?
The requirements for consent under the GDPR are strict.
To be valid, consent must be in clear and plain language and, where sought in writing, separate from other matters. Consent must be based on affirmative action so pre-ticked boxes are not acceptable. Consent might not be valid if: (i) there is any detriment to the data subject for refusing; (ii) there is an imbalance of power; (iii) consent for multiple purposes is bundled together; or (iv) the consent is a condition of entering into a contract. Finally, consent can be withdrawn at any time.
In practice, other processing conditions should be relied on where possible. Consent will only be an appropriate processing condition if the individual has a genuine choice over the matter, for example, whether to be sent marketing materials.
The European Data Protection Board has issued Guidelines on consent (5/2020).
Under the UAVG, it is not possible to withdraw consent to the processing of personal data for journalistic purposes, for example to withdraw consent to the publication or broadcasting of an interview once given.
Are there any special rules when processing personal data about children?
Consent from a child in relation to online services will only be valid if authorised by a parent. A child is someone under 16 years old, though Member States may reduce this age to 13.
The UAVG does not provide for a different age limit and the age at which a child can provide a valid consent. Thus the age limit is 16 years old.
Are there any special rules when processing personal data about employees?
The GDPR allows Member States to implement more specific national rules governing the processing of personal data about employees. It may also be possible to process special category personal data where it is necessary for a legal obligation in the field of employment law.
Under the UAVG, health information may be processed by employers insofar as this is necessary for the reintegration and coaching of employees in relation to illness or disability.
Criminal data in relation to employees may only be processed under strict circumstances, being: (i) at the applicant’s own request (e.g. in relation to background checks); or (ii) if the processing is required to protect the interests of the employer and it concerns criminal offences that are or will be committed against the employer or its employees. Furthermore, the processing should take place in accordance with rules that have been established in line with the Dutch Works Councils Act (i.e. rules for which the Works Council’s consent has been obtained).
Additional legislative measures are being considered by the Dutch government for testing employees for alcohol, drugs and medication in hazardous working environments.
Sensitive Personal Data
What is sensitive personal data?
Special category data is personal data consisting of racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation.
The inclusion of genetic and biometric data is new and an extension to the types of sensitive personal data in the Data Protection Directive.
Information about criminal offences is dealt with separately and is subject to even tighter controls.
Are there additional rules for processing sensitive personal data?
Special category data may only be processed if a condition for processing special category data is satisfied. A condition arises where the processing: (a) is carried out with the data subject’s explicit consent; (b) is necessary for a legal obligation in the fields of employment, social security and social protection law; (c) is necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject or another person where the data subject is unable to give consent; (d) is carried out by a non-profit-seeking body and relates to members of that body or persons who have regular contact; (e) relates to data made public by the data subject; (f) is necessary for legal claims; (g) is for reasons of substantial public interest under EU or Member State law; (h) is necessary for healthcare reasons; (i) is necessary for public health reasons; or (j) is necessary for archiving, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes and is based on EU or Member State law.
The UAVG provides for some specific national derogations regarding the processing of sensitive personal data. It allows such processing under specific conditions, including the: (i) processing of data necessary for scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes; (ii) processing of data revealing racial or ethnic origin to identify the person involved or to give persons of a certain ethnic or cultural minority a privileged position; (iii) processing of data revealing political opinions in a public capacity; (iii) processing of data revealing religious or philosophical beliefs for the purposes of mental care; or (iv) processing of genetic data if such processing is related to the person from which these data are obtained.
The UAVG also allows the processing biometric data if this is necessary for authentication and security purposes (e.g. biometrics-based access systems to computers and buildings). However, this will only be permitted in very limited circumstances.
Are there additional rules for processing information about criminal offences?
It is only possible to process personal data relating to criminal convictions or offences if: (a) it is carried out under the control of official authority; or (b) when the processing is authorised by EU or Member State law providing for appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of data subjects.
The UAVG authorises the processing of information about criminal convictions or offences, inter alia, in the following circumstances: (i) processing undertaken by Dutch law enforcement; (ii) processing undertaken by or on behalf of a public authority, provided that such processing is necessary for the performance of the duty of such public authority, and there are adequate safeguards that ensure that the private life of the data subject is not disproportionately impacted; or (iii) processing by licensed security or criminal investigations organisations in certain situations.
Are there any formalities to obtain consent to process sensitive personal data?
Consent to process sensitive personal data must be explicit. The general restrictions on consent, set out above, will also apply. This suggests a degree of formality, such as ticking a box containing the express words “I consent”. It is unlikely explicit consent could be obtained through a course of conduct.
Data Protection Officers
When must a data protection officer be appointed?
Both controllers and processors must appoint a data protection officer if: (i) they are a public authority; (ii) their core activities consist of regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale; or (iii) their core activities consist of processing special category personal data on a large scale (including processing information about criminal offences).
The UAVG does not provide for additional conditions regarding the appointment of a data protection officer.
What are the duties of the data protection officer?
The data protection officer must be involved in all data protection issues and cannot be dismissed or penalised for performing their role. The data protection officer must report directly to the highest level of management. Details of the data protection officer must be communicated to the relevant supervisory authority.
The Article 29 Working Party has issued Guidelines on Data Protection Officers (WP243).
Accountability and Privacy Impact Assessments
Is there a general accountability obligation?
The GDPR adds a new general accountability obligation under which you must not only comply with these new rules, but also be able to demonstrate you comply with them. This means ensuring suitable policies are in place supported by audit and training.
Are privacy impact assessments mandatory?
A privacy impact assessment must be conducted where “high risk” processing is carried out. This includes: (a) systematic and extensive profiling that produces legal effects or significantly affects individuals; (b) processing on a large scale either special categories of personal data or personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences; and (c) systematic monitoring of a publicly accessible area on a large scale (e.g. CCTV). Where the assessment indicates the risk cannot be mitigated, the controller must consult the relevant supervisory authority.
The Article 29 Working Party has subsequently issued Guidelines on Data Protection Impact Assessments (WP 248). It suggests there are nine criteria to consider to determine whether to conduct a privacy impact assessment, and that an assessment should be made if two or more of those criteria are met. This is arguably wider than the criteria set out in the paragraph above.
The Dutch DPA has drawn up and published a (non-exhaustive) list of examples of types of “high risk” processing for which a Data Protection Impact Assessment (gegevensbeschermingseffectbeoordeling) must be carried out prior to processing. The list includes a range of examples of “high risk” processing including matters such as the processing of genetic data or CCTV usage.
Rights of Data Subjects
A controller must provide data subjects with a privacy notice setting out how the individual’s personal data will be processed. The privacy notice must contain the enhanced transparency information.
The Article 29 Working Party has issued Guidelines on Transparency (WP260).
In the Netherlands, there is no obligation for privacy notices to be in Dutch and may therefore be provided in English.
Rights to access information
Data subjects will have a right to access copies of their personal data by making a written request to the controller. The initial request is free, though a charge can be made for subsequent requests. Controllers can refuse the request if it is manifestly unfounded or excessive. The response must be provided within a month, though this can be extended by two months if the request is complex.
The European Data Protection Board has issued draft Guidelines on rights of access (2/2019) that suggest these rights should be interpreted broadly with limited ability of controllers to resist on proportionality grounds.
Rights to data portability
Data subjects will also have a right to data portability where the condition for processing personal data is consent or the performance of a contract. It entitles individuals to obtain any personal data they have “provided” to the controller in a machine-readable format. Individuals can also ask for the data to be transferred directly from one controller to another. There is no right to charge fees for this service.
The Article 29 Working Party has issued Guidelines on data portability (WP242).
Right to be forgotten
A data subject can ask that their data be deleted in certain circumstances. However, those circumstances are relatively limited, for example where the processing is based on consent, that consent is withdrawn and there are no other grounds for processing. Even where the right does arise, there are range of exemptions, for example where there is a legal obligation to retain the data.
The European Data Protection Board has issued Guidelines on the criteria of the Right to be Forgotten in the search engines cases under the GDPR (part 1) (5/2019).
Objection to direct marketing
A data subject can object to their personal data being processed for direct marketing purposes at any time. This includes profiling to the extent related to direct marketing.
The GDPR contains a range of other rights, including a right to have inaccurate data corrected. There is also a right to object to processing being carried out in the performance of a public task or under the legitimate interests condition.
Finally, there are controls on taking decisions based solely on automated decision making that produce legal effects or similarly significantly affects the data subject. The Article 29 Working Party has issued Guidelines on Automated Decision Making and Profiling (WP251).
Security requirements in order to protect personal data
The GDPR contains a general obligation to implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect personal data.
In addition, controllers and processors must ensure, where appropriate: (i) the pseudonymisation and encryption of personal data; (ii) the ability to ensure the ongoing confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of its information technology systems; (iii) the ability to restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident; and (iv) a process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.
Specific rules governing processing by third party agents (processors)
A controller must ensure that any processor it instructs will ensure adequate security for personal data and otherwise meet the requirements of the GDPR.
The controller must have written contracts with its processor containing the enhanced processor clauses.
Notice of breach laws
A personal data breach must be notified to the relevant supervisory authority unless it is unlikely to result in a risk to data subjects. The notification must, where feasible, be made within 72 hours. If the personal data breach is a high risk for data subjects, those data subjects must also be notified.
Specific notice of breach laws apply to the electronic communications sector under national laws implementing the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive and to operators of essential services and digital service providers under national laws implementing the Network and Information Systems Directive.
The Article 29 Working Party has issued Guidelines on Personal Data Breach Notification (WP250) and the European Data Protection Board has issued Examples regarding Personal Data Breach Notification (1/2021).
Moreover, controllers in certain sectors may be required to inform sectoral regulators of any breach. For example, financial services firms may be required to inform the Dutch National Bank and/or the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets of any breach.
Transfer of Personal Data to Third Countries
Restrictions on transfers to third countries
The GDPR contains a restriction on transborder dataflows. This restriction does not apply if the transfer is to a whitelisted country.
Transfers can be made: (i) pursuant to a set of Standard Contractual Clauses; (ii) pursuant to binding corporate rules; (iii) to an importer who has signed up to an approved code or obtained an approved certification; or (iv) where otherwise approved by the relevant supervisory authority. However, following the decision in Schrems II (C-311/18) any transfer made on this basis must be subject to a transfer impact assessment of the laws of the relevant third country and supplemented by supplementary protections where necessary.
The European Data Protection Board has issued Recommendation on European Essential Guarantees for surveillance measures (2/2020) and a Recommendation on supplementary transfer tools (1/2020) to help conduct this transfer impact assessment.
Transfers are also possible if an individual derogation applies. These derogations allow a transfer if it: (i) is made with the data subject’s explicit consent; (ii) is necessary for the performance of a contract with, or in the interests of, the data subject; (iii) is necessary or legally required on important public interest grounds, or for legal claims; (iv) is necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject; (v) is made from a public register; or (vi) is made under the so-called minor transfer exemption.
The European Data Protection Board has issued Guidelines on derogations applicable to international transfers (2/2018). Finally, the European Data Protection Board has issued draft Guidelines on the interplay between Article 3 and international transfers (2/2018) to help identify when a transfer takes place.
Notification and approval of national regulator (including notification of use of Standard Contractual Clauses)
In general, there is no need for prior approval from a supervisory authority. However, this depends on the justification for the transfer.
For example, there will be no obligation to get approval for the use of Standard Contractual Clauses (though it is possible some supervisory authorities may want to be notified of their use). In contrast, it will be necessary to get approval to rely on binding corporate rules, and the supervisory authority must be informed of transfers made using the minor transfers exemption.
Use of binding corporate rules
The GDPR places binding corporate rules on a statutory footing. It will be possible to obtain authorisation from one supervisory authority (subject to approval through the consistency mechanism) that will cover transfers from anywhere in the EU.
In the Netherlands, until 24 May 2018, binding corporate rules have been approved for ABN AMRO Bank N.V., ADP (controller and processor), Akzo Nobel N.V. (controller), Align Technologies B.V. (controller and processor), Arcadis (controller), BakerCorp International Holdings Inc. (controller), CISCO, D.E. Master Blenders 1753 ex Sara Lee International B.V., Koninklijke DSM N.V. and affiliated companies, ING Bank N.V., LeasePlan Corporation N.V. (controller), NetApp Inc. (controller), Nutreco N.V. (controller), Rabobank Nederland, Royal Philips Electronics, Schlumberger Ltd., Shell International B.V., TNT Express (controller), TMF Group B.V.(controller and processor), Univar (controller) and Vopak (controller).
The GDPR is intended to make data protection a boardroom issue. It introduces an antitrust-type sanction regime with fines of up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover or €20m, whichever is the greater. These fines apply to breaches of many of the provisions of the GDPR, including failure to comply with the six general data quality principles or carrying out processing without satisfying a condition for processing personal data.
A limited number of breaches fall into a lower tier and so are subject to fines of up to 2% of annual worldwide turnover or €10m, whichever is the greater. Failing to notify a personal data breach or failing to put an adequate contract in place with a processor fall into this lower tier.
The Article 29 Working Party has issued Guidelines on administrative fines (WP253).
The UAVG does not provide for potential criminal offences or imprisonment for breach of the GDPR.
Data subjects have a right to compensation in respect of material and non-material damage.
Regulators will have a range of other powers and sanctions at their disposal. This includes investigative powers, such as the ability to demand information from controllers and processors, and to carry out audits. They will also have corrective powers enabling them to issue warnings or reprimands, to enforce an individual’s rights and to issue a temporary or permanent ban on processing.
In the Netherlands, the DPA has the power to enter residences without the consent of the resident. Furthermore, obligations of secrecy cannot be invoked against the DPA to the extent that information or cooperation is required regarding that organisation’s own involvement in data processing.
Fines: Some of the most significant fines imposed and published by the Dutch DPA recently are set out below:
- In April 2022, the Dutch Tax Authority was fined €3,700,000 for years of illegally processing personal data in their fraud signalling facility. This facility contained a ‘blacklist’ which the Dutch Tax Authority used to keep track of indications of fraud. There was no legal basis for processing the personal data on the list and the personal data kept was often incorrect, which resulted in a number of individuals being wrongly registered as potentially guilty of fraud. The blacklist did not have correct security measures in place and the internal privacy supervisor was not timely involved in the process. The fine is the highest fine that has been imposed as at April 2022.
- In February 2022, DPG Media was fined €525,000 as it required individuals that wanted to review or remove their data to upload a copy of their identification, without any legal basis for the processing of such personal data.
- In December 2021, the Dutch Tax Authority was fined €2,750,000 for processing personal data improperly. It took the dual-nationality of applicants for childcare allowance into account in an unlawful, discriminatory and therefore improper, manner. The dual-nationality data was used as an indicator in a system that automatically designated certain childcare allowance applications as risky.
- In July 2021, TikTok was fined €750,000 for breaching the privacy of young children. The information that Dutch users – mainly young children – received when installing and using the app was in English and therefore not understandable for these young users.
- In 2020, a company was fined €725,000 for processing employees’ fingerprints, without a legal basis for the processing of such biometrical data.
Other enforcement action: To ensure general compliance and awareness, the DPA can initiate investigations or carry out compliance processes and enforcement processes. In 2021, the DPA initiated 29 investigations and carried out 1,828 compliance processes. It initiated 16 enforcement processes, which resulted in 11 fines, 2 orders subject to a penalty and 3 reprimands.
The breach notification obligation for personal data processing has been enforced by the DPA under the old Personal Data Protection Act since 2016. According to the DPA’s annual report, it received 24,866 data breach notifications in 2021. This is an increase of 4% since 2020.
In 2021 the number of data protection officers rose to almost 12,000. The DPA notices that data protection officers keep getting stronger monitoring powers within organizations.
The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (“ACM”) also actively enforces the ePrivacy provisions of the Telecommunications Act (Telecommunicatiewet). In 2014, the ACM imposed a fine of €47,500 on energy provider Essent for non-compliance with the rules on the special register (colloquially referred to as the bel-me-niet-register or “do-not-call-me-register”) that is kept by an independent third party and which contains the contact details of subscribers who formalise their objection to being called by their inclusion in the register.
ePrivacy | Marketing and cookies
As of 5 June 2012, the Telecommunications Act implements the amendments to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive. These provisions are enforced by the ACM.
In March 2015, provisions on cookies came into force under the Wet van 4 februari 2015 tot wijziging van de Telecommunicatiewet (“Cookie Law”). These provisions were slightly amended as of 25 May 2018, to implement the GDPR.
In 2019, the Dutch DPA issues new guidance on cookies that, amongst other things, prohibited the use of cookie walls.
Conditions for direct marketing by e-mail to individual subscribers
The Telecommunications Act prohibits unsolicited communication by e-mail (as well as faxes and automated communication systems) for commercial, non-commercial or charitable purposes, unless the sender can demonstrate prior consent of the subscriber. The identity of the sender, an opt-out address and e-commerce information must be provided.
Conditions for direct marketing by e-mail to corporate subscribers
The provisions on unsolicited communication via e-mail also apply to corporate subscribers.
Exemptions and other issues
No prior consent is required for unsolicited electronic messages to corporate subscribers (legal entities or individuals acting in a commercial capacity) if contact details are used that were published and designated by the subscriber for that purpose, or where the subscriber is established in a country outside the EEA and the local rules on unsolicited communication are complied with.
The recipients of electronic contact details may use those details to transmit communications for commercial, non-commercial or charitable purposes where the similar products and services exemption applies.
Conditions for direct marketing by telephone to individual subscribers (excludes automated calls)
The Telecommunications Act has a separate regime for unsolicited communication for commercial, non-commercial or charitable purposes by telephone. In principle, such communication is allowed if the data has been obtained lawfully, but subscribers may opt out.
Conditions for direct marketing by telephone to corporate subscribers (excludes automated calls)
The regime with regard to unsolicited communication via telephone does not apply to corporate subscribers but only to natural persons.
Exemptions and other issues
There is no prescribed form for opting out, but an important method is provided via a special register (colloquially referred to as the bel-me-niet-register or “do-not-call-me-register”) that is kept by an independent third party and which contains the contact details of subscribers who formalise their objection to being called by inclusion in the register. In individual calls, subscribers should be reminded of the register and be offered the possibility to object to further use of their electronic contact details and to be included immediately in the register.
The restrictions on unsolicited commercial communications do not apply where the contact details have been obtained in connection with a sale of a product or service or a donation to a charity, and these contact details are used for direct marketing of own similar products or donations to the same non-commercial or charitable organisation.