GDPR : Article 6 - Lawfulness of Processing

by Avinash V


Article 6 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stands as a pivotal pillar within the realm of data protection, elucidating the fundamental principles governing the lawfulness of processing personal data. Enshrined within its provisions are the guiding tenets that dictate how organizations and entities can ethically and legally handle the invaluable asset of personal data. This expansive article, comprising a tapestry of intricacies, articulates the manifold pathways through which data controllers can embark on the journey of processing personal data, all while upholding the sanctity of individual rights and freedoms.

GDPR : Article 6 - Lawfulness of Processing

Depths of Article 6 GDPR

At its core, Article 6 of GDPR represents an embodiment of the commitment to ensuring the use ethical and transparent processing of personal data. It serves as the bedrock upon which the diverse landscape of data processing endeavors is built, encompassing six distinct lawful bases that delineate the circumstances under which data processing is deemed legitimate.

1. Consent as the Keystone (Article 6(1)(a)): Consent, often the vanguard of data protection discussions, emerges as one of the primary cornerstones upon which the edifice of lawful data processing is constructed. In the realm of GDPR, consent emerges as an expression of volition, requiring a meticulous concoction of informed understanding, unambiguous manifestation, and the absence of compulsion. The consented data subject is akin to a sentinel, guarding the gateway through which their personal data flows into the annals of processing.

2. The Web of Contractual Necessity (Article 6(1)(b)): A second thread interwoven into the fabric of Article 6 is the principle of contractual necessity. As envisaged by this provision, data processing acquires the mantle of lawfulness when it is an indispensable component of contract execution or in anticipation. In essence, this pathway sanctifies processing when it is the warp and weft of contractual relationships, ensnaring the rights and obligations of both parties in an intricate dance.

3. The Imperative of Legal Obligation (Article 6(1)(c)): Nestled within the framework of Article 6 is the recognition that data processing can be imbued with legality when it emerges as an imperative consequence of legal obligations. As data controllers navigate the labyrinthine corridors of compliance, they are empowered to process personal data when this processing is necessitated by prevailing legal mandates, which are themselves the sentinels of societal norms and governance.

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4. Guardians of Vital Interests (Article 6(1)(d)): Emerging as a sentinel of benevolence, the principle of vital interests is enshrined within Article 6 as a beacon of protection. In the face of imminent peril or the specter of irreversible harm, data processing is rendered lawful if it emerges as the armor that safeguards the vital interests of data subjects or other natural persons. This bastion of data protection exudes a humanitarian aura, resonating with the imperative to preserve life and well-being.

5. The Public Task Mandate (Article 6(1)(e)): Article 6(1)(e) of the GDPR establishes the public task mandate. It confers legitimacy upon data processing when it's integral to tasks performed in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. This provision empowers public authorities and entities to process personal data, ensuring the execution of vital societal functions. The public task mandate acts as a compass, guiding data controllers in aligning their processing activities with the greater welfare. It crystallizes the responsibility of processing data to serve the common good while upholding individual rights, striking a harmonious chord between societal needs and data protection.

6. The Tapestry of Legitimate Interests (Article 6(1)(f)): The sixth dimension of lawfulness etched into Article 6 introduces the concept of legitimate interests. Here, data processing is bestowed with legality when it aligns with the legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by a third party, provided these interests are not trampled by the rights and freedoms of data subjects. This paradigm necessitates a delicate choreography, wherein data controllers perform a meticulous ballet, harmonizing their pursuits with the symphony of individual rights.

The Symphony of Balancing

Within the realm of legitimate interests, the principle of balance emerges as a conductor of paramount importance. Data controllers, akin to maestros, are required to conduct an intricate symphony, orchestrating the harmonious interplay between their legitimate interests and the fundamental rights of data subjects. This balancing act invokes a stringent examination of the potential impact on data subjects' rights, an elaborate pas de deux culminating in a determination of lawfulness.


Article 6 GDPR, a magnum opus of data protection legislation, embodies the ethical compass that steers the course of data processing. Through its labyrinthine passages, organizations traverse a landscape illuminated by six lawful bases, each casting a distinct hue upon the canvas of data protection. This article serves as a testament to the delicate equilibrium between data controllers' pursuits and the inviolable realm of individual rights and freedoms, ensuring that the symphony of data processing resonates with the ethos of transparency, legitimacy, and respect.

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