Deadlines for retention, erasure and anonymisation

This instalment concludes the analysis on the principle of limitation of retention examined under the following different profiles:

  • Nature of the retention of personal data and the principle of reducing the retention period to the minimum necessary for the pursuit of the lawful purpose (Bulletin of 9 May 2024)
  • Legal value of the determination of retention times (Bulletin of 23 May 2024)
  • Examples of retention times for the implementation of the dictionary of retention times (Bulletin of 6 June 2024).

This round examines the two alternative activities that the legislator requires to be carried out at the end of personal data retention periods:

  • Erasure
  • Anonymisation.

Erasure and destruction of data

As mentioned above, the erasure of data is the implementing action of the principle of limitation of retention when the predetermined period expires. The term ‘erasure’ is not synonymous with ‘deletion’ or ‘destruction’.

Data erasure and destruction are both processing operations but with different effects and multiple implications. 

Erasure of data is an operation strictly related to the purpose of use: erasure – unlike destruction – does not eliminate the data but inhibits its use for a specific purpose; it is a kind of total restriction or inhibition of the data with regard to a specific use.

It – according to Article 17 of the GDPR – constitutes simultaneously

  • an autonomous obligation of the data controller
  • a right of the data subject.

The provision providing for erasure as an obligation of the data controller once processing has ceased mirrors the data subject’s ‘right “to have his or her personal data erased and no longer processed where the personal data are no longer necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are collected or otherwise processed” [Recital (65) and, in the operative part, Art. 17.1(a) of the GDPR].

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Deadlines for retention, erasure and anonymisation