Understanding GDPR Data Processor Responsibilities

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set the bar high when it comes to protecting individuals’ personal data. To ensure compliance, organizations must not only understand the role of a data controller but also grasp the responsibilities of a data processor. In this blog post, we will explore the fundamental obligations that data processors must fulfill under GDPR.

Defining a Data Processor

A data processor is an entity or person that processes personal data on behalf of a data controller. Unlike the data controller, the data processor does not determine the purposes or means of processing the data but rather carries out tasks assigned by the controller.

Key Responsibilities of a Data Processor

Processing Personal Data Lawfully

The foremost responsibility of a data processor is to handle personal data in a lawful manner. This means following the instructions of the data controller and ensuring compliance with applicable data protection laws. The data processor should process the data only for the purposes specified by the controller and maintain a record of all processing activities.

Data Security and Confidentiality

Data processors shoulder the responsibility of implementing appropriate security measures to protect personal data from unauthorized access, loss, or destruction. This includes technical and organizational measures such as encryption, access controls, and regular security audits. Confidentiality of personal data is paramount, and data processors must ensure that only authorized personnel have access to the data.

Engaging Subprocessors with Care

In some cases, data processors may engage with subprocessors to handle personal data. When doing so, data processors must exercise diligence and ensure that any subprocessor they engage is also GDPR-compliant and provides sufficient guarantees of data protection. This includes putting in place a written agreement (Data Processing Agreement) that outlines the subprocessor’s obligations and ensures the same level of data protection as required by the data controller.

Assisting the Data Controller

Data processors are expected to assist the data controller in fulfilling their obligations under GDPR. This includes providing necessary information and cooperation to the controller to carry out data protection impact assessments, responding to individuals’ data subject rights requests, and assisting in handling data breaches. Data processors should ensure they have the mechanisms in place to fulfill these responsibilities effectively.

International Data Transfers

If personal data is transferred outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the data processor must comply with GDPR’s requirements for international data transfers. This involves ensuring that adequate safeguards, such as Standard Contractual Clauses or other approved mechanisms, are in place to protect the data and respect individuals’ rights, regardless of its location.


Data processors play a crucial role in the processing of personal data on behalf of data controllers. By understanding and fulfilling their GDPR responsibilities, including lawful processing, data security, engaging subprocessors carefully, assisting the data controller, and complying with international data transfer requirements, data processors contribute to creating a trustworthy and privacy-conscious data ecosystem. Adherence to these responsibilities not only enhances data protection but also fosters trust and confidence between data processors, data controllers, and the individuals whose data they handle.