What is GDPR location data?

Geolocation services collect and store a host of information that can determine the country and city of an individual. Some advanced services can even track the exact location coordinates of a person. 

Although this data collection serves legal business purposes, companies can use it to harm users. Services that collect personal data without informing users or obtaining their consent are particularly suspicious.

However, European citizens are lucky that GDPR protects their personal data. GDPR is a regulatory framework in EU law that enforces user data protection rules for companies handling this data.

In this article, we’ll learn the correlation between GDPR and location data in detail. We’ll also walk you through steps to ensure you only collect legitimate location data. 

But before we talk about those, here’s a brief overview of GDPR. 

Image showing GDPR text.

What Is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a privacy law from the European Union (EU). The EU adopted GDPR on April 27, 2016, and it came into effect on May 25, 2018. 

GDPR aims to protect the personal data of individuals within the EU. This law applies to any company that handles the data of EU citizens, regardless of the company’s location. This means companies outside the EU must also comply if they deal with EU data.

GDPR regulations cover all organizations that collect and process personal data of EU residents. It requires companies to obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting their data. Companies must also inform individuals about what data they collect and how they use it.

Under GDPR, individuals have several rights, including:

  • The right to access their data
  • The right to correct inaccuracies
  • The right to have their data deleted

GDPR emphasizes transparency and accountability. Companies must keep records of their data processing activities. They must also conduct data protection impact assessments (DPIA) for high-risk processing activities. 

Non-compliance with GDPR can result in hefty fines. There are two categories of fines: 

  • The first category can be up to €10 million or 2% of the company’s global annual revenue, whichever is higher. 
  • The second category can be up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s global annual revenue, whichever is higher.

The higher fines apply to violations of fundamental principles, such as data subject rights and international data transfers. The lower fines apply to issues like improper record-keeping or insufficient security measures. These fines aim to ensure companies take data protection seriously.

Since geoPlugin is all about location, let’s discuss what is location data under GDPR.

Image showing privacy policy document on a laptop screen.

What Is Location Data GDPR?

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which oversees UK GDPR, location data is any information indicating a device’s geolocation. It includes data like the latitude and longitude of a user’s device. It can also include the direction of travel and the time of tracking of the location.

Companies collect location data from various sources, such as GPS, Wi-Fi signals, and mobile networks. This data helps companies understand the movements and behaviors of individuals.

Under GDPR location data, collecting companies must follow strict protection principles. These include obtaining explicit consent from users and informing them about the use of their data. Companies must also ensure they meet compliance requirements, such as data minimization and storage limitation.

Now, let’s determine whether location data comes under personal data according to GDPR.

Image showing the GDPR logo and several social media platforms collecting user’s personal data.

Is Location Data Personal Data GDPR?

Under GDPR, personal data refers to any information related to a natural person who is identifiable, directly or indirectly. 

This includes names, identification numbers, and online identifiers. It also includes details that reveal physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity.

Location data comes under personal data according to GDPR when it can pinpoint the geographical position of a person’s device. The reason is that location data can potentially identify an individual and hence falls under GDPR’s strict personal data regulations. 

Geolocation companies should be extra vigilant as GDPR explicitly talks about online identifiers such as IP addresses. An IP address plays an important role in tracing the geographical location of individuals. 

According to GDPR, if IP addresses can help create profiles of natural persons, then they also come under personal data.

Companies must ensure that the person has knowingly opted-in before collecting geolocation data. This adherence ensures a high level of protection for personal data. 

Particularly sensitive is the geolocation data concerning children. GDPR emphasizes extra protection for minors as they might not fully understand the implications of their tracked data. 

Such data can make children vulnerable to various risks, including abduction or abuse. Therefore, data location GDPR laws mandate stringent measures to protect children and prevent misuse that could threaten their safety.

In short, organizations must handle GDPR location data with care to comply with the established protection laws. They should protect any data that can identify a natural person and pay special attention when it comes to children’s data.

In a globalized world with data centers worldwide, does GDPR permit storing EU citizen data outside the EU? If yes, then under what rules? Read along to find out what GDPR data storage location requirements are.

Image showing a data storage network.

What Are GDPR Data Storage Location Requirements?

Chapter 5 of the GDPR outlines strict requirements for transferring personal data outside the European Union. When data moves to third countries or international organizations, the same GDPR level of protection must accompany it.

Firstly, any transfer must ensure that the recipient country or organization provides an adequate level of protection. The European Commission makes this adequacy decision based on the third country’s data protection laws and security controls.

If the EU hasn’t specified an adequacy decision for a country, companies must use specific safeguards to protect the data. 

These safeguards could include: 

  • Standard contractual clauses approved by the Commission
  • Binding corporate rules
  • Specific conditions like having necessary security measures in place

Apart from this, companies must meet compliance requirements by documenting these transfers and implementing data security measures. They are also responsible for ensuring that the rights of data subjects are enforceable and effective legal remedies are available.

For cloud providers handling GDPR location data, these safeguards ensure proper safety controls are in place for the data.

Some GDPR-compliant cloud providers include:

  • Amazon 
  • Google
  • Microsoft 
  • Tresorit
  • Sync.com
  • Boxcryptor

Now, let’s find out how to meet GDPR compliance requirements as a Geolocation tracking company.

Image showing GDPR-compliant business owners. 

8 Steps To Become GDPR-Compliant for Geolocating Individuals

If you are a geolocation tracking company and EU citizens are your main audience, GDPR compliance is mandatory for you.

While it may seem like a burdensome task, it’s a necessary step to avoid hefty fines under GDPR. Don’t worry, though. You can follow these eight steps to ensure that the GDPR and location data you collect go hand in hand.

Step 1: Determine if GDPR Applies

Compliance starts with recognizing the need for it.

First, determine if the GDPR applies to your data collection practices. GDPR applies to collecting or processing geolocation data from individuals within the EU. 

Understand that GDPR considers geolocation data to be personal because it can identify an individual. 

Ensure you know the data’s source, journey, and use. 

Image showing an individual signing a document.

Step 2: Obtain Explicit Consent

Before collecting geolocation data, obtain explicit consent from each user. This means clearly explaining what data you’re collecting, why, and how you will use it. 

Consent must be specific, informed, and unambiguous — you cannot assume or obtain consent through pre-ticked boxes or inactivity. 

Document this consent with great attention to detail. You must be able to prove that users gave their consent freely and specifically for the collection of geolocation data.

Step 3: Apply Data Minimization Principles

It’s important to adhere to the GDPR’s data minimization principle. Collect only the geolocation data necessary for the declared purposes and nothing more.

Frequently review your data collection practices to ensure it aligns with this principle. This means analyzing if each piece of data is essential for your service and removing any unnecessary data. 

Doing so reduces the risk of non-compliance and subsequent hefty fines.

Step 4: Implement Adequate Security Controls

Implement strong security controls to protect the geolocation data you collect. This includes physical, administrative, and technical measures. 

Encrypt the data where possible, use secure networks for transmission, and apply access controls within your organization. 

Regular audits and updates to these security measures are also vital to protect against data breaches and unauthorized access.

Step 5: Ensure Transparency With Users

Maintain transparency by informing users about their data’s collection, use, and rights. Update your privacy policy to include detailed information about geolocation data processing. 

Provide clear instructions on how users can access, correct, or delete their data and how they can withdraw their consent. 

Transparency not only complies with GDPR but also builds trust with your users. A win-win!

Step 6: Train Your Team

Train your team on the importance of GDPR compliance and the specific requirements for handling GDPR location data. 

You and your team must understand legal implications, organizational policies, and your roles in protecting personal information.

Step 7: Ensure Third-Party GDPR Compliance

Verify that any third parties with whom you share geolocation data comply with GDPR. 

Before sharing, ensure these third parties also obtain explicit consent and maintain transparency in their data processing activities.

Step 8: Regularly Review and Update Compliance Practices

Regularly review and update your data protection practices to ensure ongoing compliance with GDPR. This includes revisiting your security measures, consent forms, and privacy policies. 

It’s a great practice to schedule annual audits to assess your compliance level and make necessary adjustments.

geoPlugin Upholds GDPR Location Data Standards! 

geoPlugin is a French-registered company with servers in France and Holland. Therefore, it naturally falls under the GDPR umbrella. By GDPR definition, geoPlugin is a data collector and data processor.

As a reputable geolocation service provider, geoPlugin meets GDPR requirements and only collects legal GDPR location data. It also ensures that anyone using its services meets these standards. 

For instance, geoPlugin informs users about the data it permanently stores. It also allows users to view their stored personal data anytime upon request. It also respects user requests enough to not use their data and deletes personally identifiable information when a user asks.

If you use geoPlugin to geolocate users, geoPlugin will let you know which user requires the application of GDPR rules.

The variable geoplugin_inEU specifies this information by returning 1 for EU citizens and 0 for non-EU ones. 

Sounds fair, right? Sign up today for geoPlugin and use GDPR-compliant geolocation services!

author avatar
Mehal Rashid
Mehal is a Computer Science graduate who specializes in writing SEO articles about Tech, AI, and cybersecurity. In his free time, you will find Mehal in a boxing ring or playing snooker.