How to read the EU GDPR and make up for its missing table of contents

When I first started reading the EU General Data Protection Regulation, it took me a while to understand its structure — or in developer terms — its syntax.

The EU GDPR is a new binding regulation that aims to protect people’s rights to their personal data and privacy. It impacts everyone collecting and processing personal data inside the EU or anywhere in the world if the data subjects are EU citizens . The new regulation is enforced from 25th of May 2018 onwards.

Out of the 88 pages in English version of the EU GDPR, pages 1–31 hold the Preamble, while the Enacting terms are on pages 32–88. These are the two main parts of the document.

The Preamble contains numbered recitals, which are short, independent chapters describing the reasoning behind the legal act. The recitals are not the legal basis itself, but they can be used to interpret it.

The Enacting terms are the legal basis. The basis consists of Articles that are divided into paragraphs, subparagraphs, points, indents and sections, as shown in the following image.

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Structure of a EU Act (source:

You can read more about the structure here in the Interinstitutional Style Guide.

Despite the style guide, a problem I kept having with the document is that Articles are referred to only by the number making it hard to immediately see what the linked Article is about. Since the document doesn’t have a list of the Articles and their titles for quick checks, I made one. You can find it at the end of this post.

The GDPR is an important document for everyone in the software business, so I hope these tips help you read it and find the information you need. I will share in my following posts some of the key findings I’ve made about how GDPR impacts designing and building digital products and services and how to build software that helps to achieve GDPR compliancy.

CHAPTER I: General provisions
Article 1: Subject-matter and objectives
Article 2: Material scope
Article 3: Territorial scope
Article 4: Definitions

CHAPTER II: Principles
Article 5: Principles relating to processing of personal data
Article 6: Lawfulness of processing
Article 7: Conditions for consent
Article 8: Conditions applicable to child’s consent in relation to information society services
Article 9: Processing of special categories of personal data
Article 10: Processing of personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences
Article 11: Processing which does not require identification

Chapter III: Rights of the data subject
Article 12: Transparent information, communication and modalities for the exercise of the rights of the data subject
Article 13: Information to be provided where personal data are collected from the data subject
Article 14: Information to be provided where personal data have not been obtained from the data subject
Article 15: Right of access by the data subject
Article 16: Right to rectification
Article 17: Right to erasure (‘right to be forgotten’)
Article 18: Right to restriction of processing
Article 19: Notification obligation regarding rectification or erasure of personal data or restriction of processing
Article 20: Right to data portability
Article 21: Right to object
Article 22: Automated individual decision-making, including profiling
Article 23: Restrictions

CHAPTER IV: Controller and processor
Article 24: Responsibility of the controller
Article 25: Data protection by design and by default
Article 26: Joint controllers
Article 27: Representatives of controllers or processors not established in the Union
Article 28: Processor
Article 29: Processing under the authority of the controller or processor
Article 30: Records of processing activities
Article 31: Cooperation with the supervisory authority
Article 32: Security of processing
Article 33: Notification of a personal data breach to the supervisory authority
Article 34: Communication of a personal data breach to the data subject
Article 35: Data protection impact assessment
Article 36: Prior consultation
Article 37: Designation of the data protection officer
Article 38: Position of the data protection officer
Article 39: Tasks of the data protection officer
Article 40: Codes of conduct
Article 41: Monitoring of approved codes of conduct
Article 42: Certification
Article 43: Certification bodies

CHAPTER V: Transfers of personal data to third countries or international organisations
Article 44: General principle for transfers Official Journal of the European Union
Article 45: Transfers on the basis of an adequacy decision
Article 46: Transfers subject to appropriate safeguards
Article 47: Binding corporate rules
Article 48: Transfers or disclosures not authorised by Union law
Article 49: Derogations for specific situations
Article 50: International cooperation for the protection of personal data

CHAPTER VI: Independent supervisory authorities
Article 51: Supervisory authority
Article 51: Independence
Article 53: General conditions for the members of the supervisory authority
Article 54: Rules on the establishment of the supervisory authority
Article 55: Competence
Article 56: Competence of the lead supervisory authority
Article 57: Tasks
Article 58: Powers
Article 59: Activity reports

CHAPTER VII: Cooperation and consistency
Article 60: Cooperation between the lead supervisory authority and the other supervisory authorities concerned
Article 61: Mutual assistance
Article 62: Joint operations of supervisory authorities
Article 63: Consistency mechanism
Article 64: Opinion of the Board
Article 65: Dispute resolution by the Board
Article 66: Urgency procedure
Article 67: Exchange of information
Article 68: European Data Protection Board
Article 69: Independence
Article 70: Tasks of the Board
Article 71: Reports
Article 72: Procedure
Article 73: Chair
Article 74: Tasks of the Chair
Article 75: Secretariat
Article 76: Confidentiality

CHAPTER VIII: Remedies, liability and penalties
Article 77: Right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority
Article 78: Right to an effective judicial remedy against a supervisory authority
Article 79: Right to an effective judicial remedy against a controller or processor
Article 80: Representation of data subjects
Article 81: Suspension of proceedings
Article 82: Right to compensation and liability
Article 83: General conditions for imposing administrative fines
Article 84: Penalties

CHAPTER IX: Provisions relating to specific processing situations
Article 85: Processing and freedom of expression and information
Article 86: Processing and public access to official documents
Article 87: Processing of the national identification number
Article 88: Processing in the context of employment
Article 89: Safeguards and derogations relating to processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes
Article 90: Obligations of secrecy
Article 91: Existing data protection rules of churches and religious associations

CHAPTER X: Delegated acts and implementing acts
Article 92: Exercise of the delegation
Article 93: Committee procedure

CHAPTER XI: Final provisions
Article 94: Repeal of Directive 95/46/EC
Article 95: Relationship with Directive 2002/58/EC
Article 96: Relationship with previously concluded Agreements
Article 97: Commission reports
Article 98: Review of other Union legal acts on data protection
Article 99: Entry into force and application

Written by

Backend software & data protection freelancer.

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