Guidelines 02/2018 on Derogations of Article 49 GDPR
Section 2.4 Transfer is necessary for important reasons of public interest – (49 (1) (d))
This derogation, usually referred to as the “important public interest derogation”, is very similar to the provision contained in Directive 95/46/EC under Article26 (1) (d), which provides that a transfer shall take place only where it is necessary or legally required on important public interest grounds.
According to Article 49 (4), only public interests recognized in Union law or in the law of the Member State to which the controller is subject can lead to the application of this derogation.
However, for the application of this derogation, it is not sufficient that the data transfer is requested (for example by a third country authority) for an investigation which serves a public interest of a third country which, in an abstract sense, also exists in EU or Member State law. Where for example a third country authority requires a data transfer for an investigation aimed at combatting terrorism, the mere existence of EU or member state legislation also aimed at combatting terrorism is not as such a sufficient trigger to apply Article 49 (1) (d) to such transfer. Rather, as emphasized by the WP29, predecessor of the EDPB, in previous statements, the derogation only applies when it can also be deduced from EU law or the law of the member state to which the controller is subject that such data transfers are allowed for important public interest purposes including in the spirit of reciprocity for international cooperation. The existence of an international agreement or convention which recognises a certain objective and provides for international cooperation to foster that objective can be an indicator when assessing the existence of a public interest pursuant to Article 49 (1) (d), as long as the EU or the Member States are a party to that agreement or convention.
Although mainly focused to be used by public authorities, Article 49 (1) (d) may also be relied upon by private entities. This is supported by some of the examples enumerated in recital 112 which mention both transfers by public authorities and private entities.
As such, the essential requirement for the applicability of this derogation is the finding of an important public interest and not the nature of the organization (public, private or international organization) that transfers and/or receives the data.
Recitals 111 and 112 indicate that this derogation is not limited to data transfers that are “occasional”. Yet, this does not mean that data transfers on the basis of the important public interest derogation under Article 49 (1) (d) can take place on a large scale and in a systematic manner. Rather, the general principle needs to be respected according to which the derogations as set out in Article 49 shall not become “the rule” in practice, but need to be restricted to specific situations and each data exporter needs to ensure that the transfer meets the strict necessity test.
Where transfers are made in the usual course of business or practice, the EDPB strongly encourages all data exporters (in particular public bodies) to frame these by putting in place appropriate safeguards in accordance with Article 46 rather than relying on the derogation as per Article 49(1)(d).