European Union: Court of Justice of the European Union confirms individuals have the right to know to whom their personal data has been disclosed

Judgment of the Court in Case C-154/21 | Österreichische Post

In brief

On 12 January 2023, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that individuals have the right to know to whom their personal data has been disclosed, unless the controller can demonstrate that it is impossible to identify the recipients or that the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive.

Controllers must be able to provide information on the actual identity of all individuals and organizations to whom personal data is disclosed. This can be done for example, by maintaining up-to-date records on the  sharing of personal data or by any other (technical) means.

For further information and to discuss what these new developments mean to you, please get in touch with your Baker McKenzie data protection specialist.


In more detail

The case in question involved an individual who requested that Österreichische Post, the principal operator of postal and logistical services in Austria, reveal the identity of the recipients to whom it had disclosed their personal data.

Österreichische Post stated that it uses personal data, to the extent that this is legally permissible, for its activities as an address broker, and that it offers those personal data for marketing purposes to its business partners. The individual then brought a lawsuit against the company in Austria. During the judicial proceedings, Österreichische Post further informed the citizen of the categories of recipients, without however specifying their actual identity.

In this context, the Austrian Supreme Court requested a preliminary ruling from the CJEU on whether Article 15(1)(c) of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) leaves to the data controller the choice to disclose either the specific identities of recipients or only their respective categories, or whether it affords the data subject the right to know the specific identities of recipients.

The CJEU ruled that, when personal data are disclosed to third parties, controllers have an obligation to provide the actual identity of those recipients to the data subjects upon their request, unless (a) it is impossible to identify those recipients (e.g., no data has been shared yet with one or multiple known third parties), or (b) the controller can demonstrate that the data subject’s information request is manifestly unfounded or excessive, in which cases the controller may indicate to the data subjects only the categories of recipient in question rather than their actual identity.

The CJEU highlighted that individuals need to access this information in order to be able to exercise their other rights provided by the GDPR, such as their right to rectification, erasure or their right to seek compensation for damages.

Contact Information

Copyright © 2024 Baker & McKenzie. All rights reserved. Ownership: This documentation and content (Content) is a proprietary resource owned exclusively by Baker McKenzie (meaning Baker & McKenzie International and its member firms). The Content is protected under international copyright conventions. Use of this Content does not of itself create a contractual relationship, nor any attorney/client relationship, between Baker McKenzie and any person. Non-reliance and exclusion: All Content is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal and regulatory developments. All summaries of the laws, regulations and practice are subject to change. The Content is not offered as legal or professional advice for any specific matter. It is not intended to be a substitute for reference to (and compliance with) the detailed provisions of applicable laws, rules, regulations or forms. Legal advice should always be sought before taking any action or refraining from taking any action based on any Content. Baker McKenzie and the editors and the contributing authors do not guarantee the accuracy of the Content and expressly disclaim any and all liability to any person in respect of the consequences of anything done or permitted to be done or omitted to be done wholly or partly in reliance upon the whole or any part of the Content. The Content may contain links to external websites and external websites may link to the Content. Baker McKenzie is not responsible for the content or operation of any such external sites and disclaims all liability, howsoever occurring, in respect of the content or operation of any such external websites. Attorney Advertising: This Content may qualify as “Attorney Advertising” requiring notice in some jurisdictions. To the extent that this Content may qualify as Attorney Advertising, PRIOR RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE A SIMILAR OUTCOME. Reproduction: Reproduction of reasonable portions of the Content is permitted provided that (i) such reproductions are made available free of charge and for non-commercial purposes, (ii) such reproductions are properly attributed to Baker McKenzie, (iii) the portion of the Content being reproduced is not altered or made available in a manner that modifies the Content or presents the Content being reproduced in a false light and (iv) notice is made to the disclaimers included on the Content. The permission to re-copy does not allow for incorporation of any substantial portion of the Content in any work or publication, whether in hard copy, electronic or any other form or for commercial purposes.