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GDPR Guide to National Implementation: Denmark

A practical guide to national GDPR compliance requirements across the EEA

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In this chapter:

Q1/ Applicable legislation

Q2/ Personal data of deceased persons

Q3/ Legal bases for processing

Q4/ Consent of children

Q5/ Processing of sensitive personal data

Q6/ Data relating to criminal offences or convictions

Q7/ Exemptions

Q8/ Restrictions on data subjects’ rights

Q9/ Joint controllership

Q10/ Processor

Q11/ Data protection Impact Assessments

Q12/ Prior authorisation and public interest

Q13/ DPOs

Q14/ International data transfers

Q15/ DPAs

Q16/ Claims by not-for-profit bodies

Q17/ Administrative fines, penalties and sanctions

Q18/ Freedom of expression and information

Q19/ National identification numbers

Q20/ Processing in the context of employment

Q21/ Other material derogations

Q22/ Current legal challenges

Q23/ Enforcement

Q24/ Regulatory Guidance

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Q1/ Applicable legislation

(a) Have the requirements of the GDPR been addressed by introducing a new law, or by updating existing legislation?

New legislation has been passed, and old legislation has been amended.

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(b) Relevant legislation includes:

  • Databeskyttelsesloven (the “Data Protection Act”)
    • Date in force: 25 May 2018
    • Link: see here 
  • Videosurveillance Monitoring Act (the “CCTV Act”)
    • Date in force: 25 May 2018
    • Link: see here

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(c) What is the status of national pre-GDPR data protection law?

The main pre-GDPR legislation has been repealed in full, and other relevant pre-GDPR legislation has been revised.

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Q2/ Personal data of deceased persons

Does national law make specific rules regarding the processing of personal data of deceased persons?

The Data Protection Act and the GDPR apply to processing of personal data of deceased persons for ten years after their death.

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Q3/ Legal bases for processing

(a) Does national law make specific rules regarding the processing of personal data in compliance with a legal obligation?

There are no specific rules governing this issue.

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(b) Does national law make specific rules regarding the processing of personal data for the performance of tasks carried out in the public interest?

There are no specific rules governing this issue.

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(c) Does national law make specific rules regarding the processing of personal data in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller?

There are no specific rules governing this issue.

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(d) Does national law contain criteria in addition to those listed in the GDPR, to determine whether processing for a new purpose is compatible with the purpose for which the personal data were initially collected?

Public authorities may process personal data for another purpose than that for which the personal data were originally collected, irrespective of the compatibility of the purposes, in accordance with an executive order issued by the relevant ministers.

The above does not apply in the following cases:

  • processing sensitive personal data or data relating to criminal convictions and offences (i.e., personal data processed under Arts. 9-10 GDPR) for the purpose of carrying out statistical or scientific studies of significant importance to society;
  • processing health data and genetic data (covered under Art. 9(1) GDPR) for the purposes of preventive medicine, medical diagnosis, the provision of care or treatment, or the management of medical and health care services, and where these data are processed by a health professional subject to the obligation of professional secrecy; or
  • processing data under the Danish healthcare legislation.

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Q4/ Consent of children

At what age can a child give their consent to processing in relation to ISS?

13 years of age.

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Q5/ Processing of sensitive personal data

(a) Are there any sensitive personal data which cannot be processed on the basis of a data subject’s consent?

When personal data (including sensitive personal data and personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences) have been processed for the purpose of carrying out statistical or scientific studies of significant importance to society, then the personal data may not subsequently be processed for other than scientific or statistical purposes—even with the consent of the data subject.

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b) Does national law contain any specific requirements regarding the processing of sensitive personal data in respect of the following:

(i) Employment, social security and/or social protection law

Sensitive personal data may be processed if the processing is necessary for the purposes of meeting and respecting the controller’s or the data subject’s labour law obligations and specific rights.

(ii) Substantial public interest

Sensitive personal data may be processed if it is necessary for the sake of substantial public interest. Prior authorisation from the DPA is required if the processing is not made by, or on behalf of, a public authority. The authorisation may set out more detailed terms for the processing. Specific sectoral laws may contain further requirements.

(iii) Preventative or occupational medicine; employee working capacity, medical diagnosis, provision of health or social care, or management of health or social care systems or services

Sensitive personal data can be processed if the processing is necessary for the purposes of preventive medicine, medical diagnosis, the provision of care or treatment, or the management of medical and health care services, provided that the processing is carried out by or for a health professional subject to obligations of professional secrecy.

(iv) Public interest in the area of public health

There are no specific rules on processing this category of data.

(v) Archiving purposes, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes

Sensitive personal data and personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences may be processed for the purpose of carrying out statistical or scientific studies of significant importance to society, provided that the personal data is necessary for this purpose. 
See also Q5(a).

Personal data processed for these purposes may not subsequently be processed for purposes other than scientific or statistical purposes—even with the consent of the data subject. This also applies to ordinary personal data processed for these purposes.

Personal data to which the aforementioned rules apply may generally be disclosed to a third party processing the personal data for the same purposes. However, such data may only be disclosed to a third party with prior authorisation from the DPA, when such disclosure:

  • is made for the purpose of processing outside the territorial scope of the GDPR (see Art. 3 GDPR);
  • relates to biological material; or
  • is made for the purpose of publication in a recognised scientific journal or a similar publication.

Further, the DPA may lay down general conditions for the disclosure of data, including issuing more detailed conditions where authorisation from the DPA is required.

The Minister of Health may, following consultation with the Minister of Justice, issue an executive order to the effect that sensitive personal data and data relating to criminal convictions and offences processed for the purpose of carrying out health-related statistical and scientific studies may subsequently be processed for purposes other than scientific or statistical purposes, where such processing is necessary for safeguarding the interests of the data subject.

Personal data covered by the Data Protection Act may be transferred to an archive in accordance with relevant legislation on archives (including the Act on Archives) (see here).

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(c) Has national law introduced any further conditions and/ or limitations with regard to the processing of genetic data, biometric data, or health data?

The Act on Research Ethics Review of Health Research Projects contains conditions and limitations on processing genetic data, biometric data and health data (see here, and see here (in Danish)).

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Q6/ Data relating to criminal offences or convictions

Under what conditions does national law permit the processing of personal data relating to criminal convictions?

Public authorities: Personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences may be processed on behalf of a public authority, when such processing is necessary for the performance of the tasks of the authority. Such data may not be disclosed to any third party, unless one of the following conditions applies:

  • the data subject has given explicit consent to such disclosure;
  • disclosure takes place for the purpose of safeguarding private or public interests which clearly override the interests of secrecy, including the interests of the person to whom the data relate;
  • disclosure is necessary for the performance of the activities of an authority, or required for a decision to be made by that authority; or
  • disclosure is necessary for the performance of tasks for a public authority by a person or an enterprise.

Private entities: Private individuals or entities may process data about criminal offences in the following cases:

  • the data subject has given explicit consent; or
  • the processing is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding a legitimate interest and this interest clearly overrides the interests of the data subject.

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Q7/ Exemptions

(a) Does national law specify exemptions to a data subject’s right to erasure?

There are no specific exemptions to the right to erasure.

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(b) Does national law specify exemptions to a data subject’s right to be provided information under Art. 14 GDPR where the personal data has not been obtained from the data subject?

The right to be provided information does not apply in the following cases:

  • if the processing of personal data is carried out by the courts;
  • if the data subject’s interest in the information is found to be overridden by essential considerations of private interests, including considerations relating to the data subject; or
  • if the data subject’s interest in obtaining this information is found to be overridden by essential considerations of public interests, including, in particular:
    • national security;
    • national defence;
    • public security;
    • prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences, or the enforcement of criminal penalties, including the safeguarding against and the prevention of threats to public security;
    • other important objectives related to the protection of the general public interest of the EU or of a Member State, in particular, important economic or financial interests of the EU or a Member State, including monetary, budgetary and taxation matters, public health and social security;
    • protection of judicial independence and judicial proceedings;
    • prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of breaches of ethics for regulated professions;
    • monitoring, inspection or regulatory functions including functions of a temporary nature related to the exercise of public authority in the cases referred to above;
    • protection of the rights and freedoms of the data subject or of others; and
    • enforcement of civil law claims.

The right to be provided information under Art. 14(4) GDPR specifically does not apply when public authorities process personal data for other purposes than the one for which the personal data was initially collected, and the further processing is based on the rules laid down in data protection legislation.

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(c) Does national law specify exemptions to a data subject’s right to not be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling?

There are no specific exemptions to the right to not be subject to automated individual decision-making.

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Q8/ Restrictions on data subjects’ rights

Aside from the exemptions noted in Q7, does national law contain any other restrictions on the rights of data subjects under Chapter III GDPR?

Arts. 13(1)-(3), 15 & 34 GDPR do not apply in the following cases:

  • if the data subject’s interest in the data is overridden by decisive considerations of private interests, including the interest of the data subject; or
  • if the data subject’s interest in obtaining this information is found to be overridden by essential considerations of public interests, including, in particular:
    • national security;
    • national defence;
    • public security;
    • prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the enforcement of criminal penalties, including the safeguarding against and the prevention of threats to public security;
    • other important objectives related to the protection of the general public interest of the EU or of a Member State, in particular, important economic or financial interests of the EU or a Member State, including monetary, budgetary and taxation matters, public health and social security;
    • protection of judicial independence and judicial proceedings;
    • prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of breaches of ethics for regulated professions;
    • monitoring, inspection or regulatory functions including functions of a temporary nature related to the exercise of public authority in the cases referred to;
    • protection of the rights and freedoms of the data subject or of others; and
    • enforcement of civil law claims.

Art. 15(1) GDPR will not apply to the processing of personal data for administrative procedures carried out by public authorities where certain provisions of the Danish Public Administration Act apply.

Arts. 13 & 15 GDPR do not apply to the processing of personal data carried out by the courts.

Arts. 15-16, 18 & 21 GDPR do not apply if the personal data is only processed for scientific or statistical purposes.

Art. 34 GDPR does not apply where the supply of such information to data subjects may specifically be assumed to impede the investigation of criminal offences. The decision to apply this exemption may only be made by the police.

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Q9/ Joint controllership

Does national law provide rules or guidance on the apportionment of responsibility between joint controllers?

There are no additional rules on apportionment of liability between joint controllers.

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Q10/ Processor

In addition to the contract between controller and processor, are there any pieces of legislation which govern processing by a processor?

There are no additional pieces of legislation.

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Q11/ Impact Assessments

Are there any circumstances in which national law requires an Impact Assessment to be carried out, where the GDPR would not otherwise require such an assessment?

The DPA has issued a list of situations where an Impact Assessment is required (see here).

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Q12/ Prior authorisation and public interest

Are there any circumstances in which national law requires controllers to consult with, or obtain prior authorisation from, the DPA in relation to processing for the performance of a task carried out by the controller in the public interest (including processing in relation to social protection and public health)?

Processing of sensitive personal data for the purpose of substantial public interest must be approved by the DPA if the processing is not made on behalf of public authorities.

Further, controllers in the private sector must obtain prior authorisation from the DPA where the processing is carried out for the following purposes:

  • to warn others against having business relations or accepting employment with a data subject;
  • to disclose commercial data for the assessment of financial standing and creditworthiness; or
  • to operate legal information systems.

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Q13/ DPOs

(a) Does national law require controllers to appoint a DPO in circumstances other than those in Art. 37(1) GDPR?

DPOs are only mandatory in the circumstances set out in Art. 37(1) GDPR.

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(b) Does national law impose secrecy and confidentiality obligations on DPOs and if so, in what circumstances do they apply?

DPOs working in or for public authorities are subject to professional secrecy obligations set out in the Public Administration Act Criminal Code.

DPOs designated under Art. 37(1)(b)-(c) GDPR may not disclose or exploit data from which they have obtained insight in connection with the exercise of their duties as DPO without justification.

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Q14/ International data transfers

(a) Does national law make specific rules about transfers of personal data from public registers?

Data transfers from public registers are not subject to specific rules.

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(b) Does national law restrict the transfer of specific categories of personal data to third countries?

In the absence of an adequacy decision and if the case is exceptional, the DPA may prohibit, restrict or suspend the transfer of sensitive personal data to a third country or international organisation.

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Q15/ DPAs

(a) Details of the DPA(s).

  • Name of DPA: Datatilsynet

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(b) If more than one national DPA has been established, what is the rationale behind multiple DPAs?

Not applicable as there is only one DPA.

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(c) How does national law ensure consistent application of the GDPR by the various DPAs in accordance with Art. 63 GDPR?

Not applicable.

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(d) Does national law grant the relevant DPA additional powers beyond those set out in Art. 58 GDPR?

The law in Denmark does not grant the DPA any additional powers.

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(e) What national appeals process exists to enable parties to challenge the decisions of the DPA?

The parties can bring the decisions of the DPA before the courts in accordance with the general rules for challenging decisions made by public authorities.

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(f) Have specific national rules been adopted regarding the DPA’s power to obtain information from controllers or processors that are subject to obligations of professional secrecy (or equivalent)?

There are no specific rules on this issue.

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Q16/ Claims by not-for-profit bodies

Does national law specify any not-for-profit bodies that are entitled to bring claims on behalf of individuals without the specific mandate of those individuals?

There are no not-for-profit bodies that are specifically mandated to bring such claims.

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Q17/ Administrative fines, penalties and sanctions

(a) Does national law lay down rules on whether and to what extent administrative fines may be imposed on public authorities for breaches of the GDPR?

Public authorities can be fined for infringement of the GDPR. Public authorities can be fined 2% of the operating budget up to a maximum of DKK 8 million (approx. €1.07 million) for infringements under Art. 83(4) GDPR, and 4% of the operating budget up to a maximum of DKK 16 million (approx. €2.1 million) for infringements under Art. 83(5) GDPR.

However, administrative fines can only be issued in very simple cases where there is clear case law regarding the level of the fine for the relevant type of infringement. Where the DPA considers that an infringement will not result in a penalty higher than a fine, and the infringing party admits to the violation and agrees to comply with the fine issued in a fixed penalty notice by the DPA, the DPA may decide to settle the case without legal proceedings. Such a decision will be published in a fixed penalty notice.

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(b) Does national law impose penalties/sanctions in addition to those set out in the GDPR, for breaches of the GDPR not subject to administrative fines (e.g., criminal penalties)?

The punishment for violation of the GDPR and of a number of provisions of the Data Protection Act is a fine or imprisonment of up to six months (unless a more severe penalty from other legislation applies).

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Q18/ Freedom of expression and information

(a) What (if anything) does national law do to balance the provisions of the GDPR against the right to freedom of expression and information?

The Data Protection Act and the GDPR do not apply if the application would constitute an infringement of Art. 10 ECHR or Art. 11 CFR.

Further, the Data Protection Act and the GDPR do not apply to the processing of data covered by the Data Protection Act on information databases operated by the mass media. 

The Data Protection Act and Chapters II-VII & IX GDPR (other than Arts. 28 & 32 GDPR) do not apply to the following personal data: 

  • personal data stored in information databases that exclusively include already published periodicals, or sound and image programmes covered by certain provisions of  the Media Liability Act, provided the data are stored in the information database in the original versions published;
  • personal data stored in information databases that exclusively include already published texts, images and sound programmes covered by certain sections of the Media Liability Act, provided the data are stored in the information database in the original versions published;
  • personal data stored in manual files of cuttings from published, printed articles exclusively processed for journalistic purposes; or
  • personal data that is otherwise exclusively for journalistic purposes, or for the sole purpose of artistic or literary expression.

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(b) What derogations have been introduced by national law concerning the processing of personal data for the purpose of academic, artistic or literary expression?

The provisions of the Data Protection Act and Chapters II-VII & IX GDPR (other than Arts. 28 & 32 GDPR) do not apply to the processing of data that takes place for the sole purpose of artistic or literary expression.

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Q19/ National identification numbers

Does national law stipulate specific conditions for the processing of a national identification number, and if so, what are the conditions?

Public authorities may process personal identification numbers for the purpose of unique identification or as journal number.

Private individuals and entities may process data concerning identification numbers where:

  • the law requires such data to be processed;
  • the data subject has given consent;
  • the processing is carried out solely for scientific or statistical purposes, or if it is a matter of disclosing an identification number where such disclosure is a natural element of the ordinary operation of enterprises of the type in question, and the disclosure is of decisive importance for identification of the data subject, or is demanded by a public authority; or
  • the conditions for processing sensitive data in the Data Protection Act are satisfied.

Personal identification numbers may not be published, unless consent for such disclosure is obtained from the data subject.

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Q20/ Processing in the context of employment

(a) For what purposes can employees’ personal data in the employment context be processed under national law?

Personal data may be processed in an employment context where the processing is necessary for the purpose of observing and respecting the employment law obligations and rights of the controller or of the data subject as laid down by other law or collective agreements.

Such processing of personal data may also take place where the processing is necessary to enable the controller or a third party to pursue a legitimate interest that arises from another law or collective agreement, provided that this does not override the interests, fundamental rights or freedoms of the data subject.

Processing of personal data in an employment context may also take place with the consent of the data subject.

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(b) Does national law provide safeguards for employees’ dignity, legitimate interests, and fundamental rights?

There are no specific safeguards of this nature.

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Q21/ Other material derogations

Are there any other material derogations from, or additions to, the GDPR under national law?

Organisations’ data and credit information agencies: The provisions of Data Protection Act and the GDPR apply to the processing of data concerning organisations, if this processing is carried out by or on behalf of credit information agencies. The legislation also applies when the processing of data is carried out for the purpose of warning others against having business relations or accepting employment with a data subject. The Data Protection Act also contains provisions regarding the disclosure by public authorities of organisations’ credit information to credit information agencies.

CCTV: The provisions of the Data Protection Act and the GDPR apply to any processing of personal data in connection with CCTV.

The competent ministers may lay down rules requiring that personal data which are processed in specified IT systems and kept for public administrative authorities must be stored, in full or in part, exclusively in Denmark.

Marketing: An organisation may not disclose data concerning a consumer to another organisation for the purpose of direct marketing or use such data on behalf of another organisations for this purpose unless the consumer has given explicit consent. Consent must be obtained in accordance with Danish spam rules. However, the personal data may be disclosed without consent where the data comprises general data on customers which forms the basis for classification into customer categories, and where the controller can rely on legitimate interests. This exemption does not apply to sensitive personal data or data relating to criminal convictions or offenses.

Before an organisation discloses data concerning a consumer to another organisation for the purpose of direct marketing, or uses the data on behalf of another organisation for this purpose, it must check a specified register and ascertain that the consumer has not indicated that they do not want to be contacted for the purpose of marketing activities. Controllers who sell lists of groups of persons for direct marketing purposes or who print addresses or distribute messages to such groups on behalf of a third party may only process the following personal data:

  • name, address, position, occupation, e-mail address, telephone and fax number;
  • data contained in trade registers, which, according to law or provisions laid down by law, are intended for public information; and
  • other data only if the data subject has given explicit consent in accordance with Danish spam rules.

This provision does not apply to sensitive personal data.

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Q22/ Current legal challenges

Are there any current legal challenges (e.g., court cases or regulatory appeals) regarding the validity or operation of the national GDPR implementation law (e.g., claims that the law incorrectly applies the GDPR; claims that the law is incompatible with constitutional principles; etc.)?

There are no current legal challenges ongoing.

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Q23/ Enforcement

Has the local DPA issued any material fines or taken any material enforcement action to date for breaches of the GDPR?

In March 2019, the DPA reported to the police a matter concerning an infringement of the basic principles of minimisation and storage limitation.

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Q24/ Regulatory Guidance

Has the DPA issued any significant guidance on the application of the GDPR or national implementation law?

The DPA has issued the following guidance on the application of the GDPR and/or GDPR implementation law (in Danish):

  • Supervision of data processors and sub-processors (see here);
  • Security of processing and data protection by design and by default (see here);
  • Handling breaches of the security of personal data (see here);
  • Data Protection Impact assessments (see here); and
  • Transfer to third countries (see here).

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Plesner contributors

Michael Hopp

Michael Hopp
Partner, Plesner
T +45 29 99 30 14
E [email protected]

Michael Hopp is a partner in Plesner’s Corporate & Compliance team and head of the Plesner Data Protection team. Since 2000 Michael has been deeply involved in data protection law. He has acquired broad and in-depth experience in handling all types of data protection law issues—both nationally and internationally. Michael is widely recognised as a leading Danish advisor in the field.

Jesper Husmer Vang

Jesper Husmer Vang
Senior Associate, Plesner
T +45 30 93 71 11
E [email protected]

Jesper Husmer Vang is a senior attorney in Plesner’s Corporate & Compliance team and deputy head of the Plesner Data Protection team. Jesper has specialised in and worked intensely with data protection law since 2006. Before joining Plesner, Jesper worked nine years with the Danish DPA where he was the Head of Enforcement from May 2017 to May 2019. Jesper has also represented the Danish DPA in the former WP29.

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Other chapters

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See also:

Our Global Data, Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice »

GDPR Handbook: Unlocking the EU General Data Protection Regulation »

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