September 06, 2022

Court of Justice of the European Union Recognizes Inferred Special Categories of Personal Data

Discerning Data Blog

On August 1, 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued an opinion regarding a Lithuanian data protection case that may signal an expansion of interpretation of the definition of sensitive personal data under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Specifically, the CJEU found that data indirectly disclosing sexual orientation constitutes sensitive personal data.

At issue was a Lithuanian law that requires the Chief Official Ethics Commission of Lithuania to publish information about the private interests of public officials in an effort to combat corruption. In the facts underlying the case, a Lithuanian official objected to the Chief Official Ethics Commission’s online publication of his private interest information, which included his spouse’s name. The CJEU concluded that the publication of such information was prohibited by the GDPR because it was “liable to disclose indirectly the sexual orientation of a natural person,” a type of special category of personal data generally prohibited from processing under GDPR Article 9 (processing of special categories of personal data) unless certain additional conditions are satisfied such as the data subject’s explicit consent, or that processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest.

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