The term ‘vital interests’ is not new. In fact, it was written into 1998 legislation in Schedule 2 paragraph 4 of the 1998 Act. At the time ‘vital interests’ referred to those of subjects whose data was being collected. GDPR has widened the term to include more than the data subjects.
Vital interests are meant to cover things essential for someone’s life. So, in the strictest sense it refers to matters of life and death.
When Would Vital Interests Apply?
Vital interests are most associated with medicine. For example an individual might become incapable of providing consent for processing data or unable to object. When is it in an individual’s vital interests to override his right to confidentiality of data?
Processing an individual’s personal data to protect his or others’ vital interests may occur in a situation of public health or public safety or even public interests.
Another example: It may be in a child’s vital interests to process his personal data and/or that of his parents or family.
Vital interests might be a legitimate reason for large scale processing of data for humanitarian reasons like monitoring infectious diseases or surveying and protection of the public in national disasters.
Protecting one life over another might better be done through another clause than vital interests.
What do GDPR regulations Say?
Article 6(1)(d) states “processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject or of another natural person”.
Recital 46 states: “The processing of personal data should also be regarded as lawful where it is necessary to protect an interest which is essential for the life of the data subject or that of another natural person. Processing of personal data based on the vital interest of another natural person should in principle take place only where the processing cannot be manifestly based on another legal basis…”
Vital interests might well be the clause used for lawfully processing the personal data to protect that person and/or another’s life. Necessity must clearly be indicated.