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7 GDPR Data Protection Principles: Best Practices for Compliance

7 GDPR principles

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The 7 GDPR principles provide a framework to ensure data privacy is respected, upheld, and meets GDPR requirements. General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, entered the business lexicon with a roar back in 2016. Since then, the GDPR has disrupted how businesses worldwide deal with consumer privacy. Understanding how to comply with GDPR has often felt onerous. However, consumer privacy awareness means that companies must take privacy seriously.

The 2023 Cisco Data Privacy Benchmark Study concludes that 94% of consumers would only buy from a company if their data is appropriately protected.

To help you comply with the GDPR, MetaCompliance explains the seven guiding principles behind the GDPR and what best practices help a business meet this important data protection framework.

What Are the 7 GDPR Principles of Data Protection?

The GDPR is typically associated with the EU. However, the UK GDPR follows similar principles and sets out seven principles of data protection reflected in Article 5 of the regulation. The principles form the framework for good privacy design and ensure that privacy is achievable and upheld in the public interest. The seven principles of GDPR data protection are:

Lawfulness, Fairness and Transparency

The GDPR sets out lawful grounds for gathering and processing personal data, including protection. The lawful basis for processing data includes the following:

  • Explicit consent
  • Contractual need
  • Any legal obligation to protect an individual
  • A public task in the public interests
  • Legitimate interest

The guiding principle of “Lawfulness, Fairness and Transparency” ensures that data processing is done transparently and under the regulatory framework of lawful processing. Therefore, fairness and lawfulness are two sides of the same coin as far as the enforcement of the GDPR is concerned.

Purpose Limitation

This is an essential aspect of privacy by design and default, the underlying framework of the GDPR. It specifies that an affected organisation must only collect the data it needs to carry out the task. Article 5 of the GDPR explains that data should be “collected for specified, explicit, and legitimate purposes.”

To achieve purpose limitation, a business should be able to justify the reasons for collecting data. Customers must be notified of the reasons for collecting data using privacy policies. If your business then goes on to use collected data for purposes other than those you have described, you will be in non-compliance with the principles of the GDPR.

Data Minimization

Data minimization is related to purpose limitation but looks at data specifically. Data minimisation is collecting only the data needed to carry out the task. For example, if you need a name and address, but a date of birth is not necessary to process a transaction, ensure you take only the name and address. Data minimisation is an important security measure as it reduces the risk to an individual if data is exposed.


Data accuracy can be one of the more complex principles to meet. However, the GDPR expects that you make “every reasonable step…to ensure that personal data that are inaccurate, having regard to the purposes for which they are processed, are erased or rectified without delay.”

Storage Limitation

How long you store data is another crucial guideline framed by the GDPR 7 data protection principles. If you choose to store data, you must have a robust reason to do so. An ideal starting position is not to store data if you do not need to. However, if you must keep copies of data, set up a storage retention policy and enforce it. Also, it is essential to ensure that data is secured using appropriate technical and organisational security measures.

Integrity and Confidentiality

The integrity and confidentiality of personal data are crucial to ensuring the privacy of these data. The GDPR mentions using appropriate security measures to protect data against accidental loss, destruction, or damage. Use the best security tools available to secure data during transit and in storage, but also back this up using security awareness training and phishing simulations to reduce the risk of exposed data.


Accountability is an essential aspect of modern privacy respect and protection. In the context of the GDPR, accountability refers to the use of appropriate technical and organisational measures by an organisation and the ability to demonstrate these measures if requested.

Six Best Practices for Achieving the 7 GDPR Principles

Organisations can take specific steps to comply with the 7 GDPR principles. Six best practices to ensure data privacy is respected, upheld, and meets the GDPR requirements include:

  1. Privacy lifecycle management: GDPR compliance can be a complex area that covers the management of assets, third parties, and data protection measures. A Privacy Lifecycle Management System(PLMS) is a centralised portal that offers a way to automate the processes involved in data processing. A PLMS will also allow an organisation to generate reports to demonstrate compliance.
  2. Privacy and regulation awareness: when you carry out Security Awareness Training, ensure that you include modules on the staff’s role in maintaining GDPR compliance. These modules will educate employees about data privacy, unlawful processing, email and password hygiene, and general security awareness, such as using robust login credentials.
  3. Privacy by Design and Default: design your services and systems to collect the minimum data needed to process a transaction. Create data-gathering user experiences that include easy-to-access and read privacy policies and consent models that are intuitive.
  4. Privacy policy: outline what data you collect and why you collect it; share details of data processing activities and your data retention policy.
  5. Design for accuracy: use systems that can check the accuracy of the data you require; for example, use verification services to check address currency. Have a plan to handle data subject requests for data amendment, deletion, archiving purposes, or changes to data they believe need to be updated or completed.
  6. Security measures: use robust encryption and authentication to protect data in transit and at rest (storage). Data anonymisation or pseudonymisation is helpful under certain circumstances.
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