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GDPR Guide to National Implementation: Estonia

A practical guide to national GDPR compliance requirements across the EEA

Estonia

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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?

Old legislation has been updated in addition to new legislation being passed.

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(b) Relevant legislation includes:

  • Personal Data Protection Act (the “PDPA”)
    • Date in force: 15 January 2019
    • Link: see here
  • Personal Data Protection Act Implementation Act
    • Date in force: 15 March 2019
    • Link: In Estonian: 
      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The main pre-GDPR legislation has been repealed in full, and a number of acts containing data protection provisions have been revised.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?

Estonian law provides specific rules on:

  • the validity of consent provided by deceased persons;
  • continued processing of personal data; and
  • the relevant rights of successors.

For example, the consent of the data subject remains valid for the entirety of his or her lifetime and for ten years after death, unless he or she decided otherwise. If the relevant data subject was a minor, his or her consent will be valid for his or her lifetime as well as for 20 years after 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?

Estonian law places various obligations on businesses regarding the processing of personal data, which vary greatly depending on the sector in which the business operates and the type of processing in which it is engaged. However, there are no general rules that depart from the GDPR with respect to the processing of personal data in compliance with a legal obligation.

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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?

The rules regarding the processing of personal data for the performance of tasks carried out in the public interest vary depending on the specific sector and type of processing. For example, personal data may be processed without the consent of the data subject for scientific or historical research purposes, or statistical purposes, especially if such data is pseudonymised or otherwise attributed an equivalent level of protection.

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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?

Estonian law does not make general rules governing this issue. Specific legal obligations may apply, depending on the authority in question.

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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?

There are no specific additional criteria governing this issue.

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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?

All sensitive personal data can be processed if the data subject’s valid consent has been obtained.

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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

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

(ii) Substantial public interest

The rules regarding the processing of personal data for the performance of tasks carried out in the public interest vary depending on the specific sector and type of processing. For example, insurance companies are permitted to process health data where doing so is required for the purposes of the insurance contract.

(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

There are several rules regarding processing of health data for these purposes. For example:

  • employers and health care providers are permitted to retain medical records and examinations of employees in certain circumstances; and
  • there are specific requirements for the processing of personal data by health care providers, including for the purposes of planning the provision of health services in the absence of a binding contract (preventative medicine).

(iv) Public interest in the area of public health

Health data may be recorded in the Communicable Diseases Register, which is maintained for the purposes of recording cases of communicable diseases, determining their tendencies to spread, preventing communicable diseases, organising the control and health services, developing the health policy, etc. Personal data entered into the Communicable Diseases Register may be preserved indefinitely.

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

In addition to the rules set out in Q3(b) above, if sensitive personal data are processed for scientific or historical research purposes, the relevant ethics committee must first verify compliance with the applicable provisions of the PDPA. If there is no relevant ethics committee, compliance with those requirements must be verified by the DPA. For any personal data retained at the National Archives, the National Archives will have the equivalent rights of the ethics committee.

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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?

Estonia has introduced rules regarding the processing of genetic, biometric and health data. For example, the Human Genes Research Act sets out rules for the processing of genetic data for the purposes of genetic research and personalised medicine.

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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?

In order to obtain personal data from the Criminal Records Database regarding a natural person, a valid legal basis must be provided, or the purpose of requesting the data specified, in the request for such data. All individuals have the right to obtain from the Database personal data about themselves, or information about any legal entity.

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Q7/ Exemptions

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

There are a number of laws that restrict the data subject’s rights. For example, the data subjects cannot rely on the right to erasure when a credit institution is processing personal data for AML, fraud prevention, risk management or other security reasons.

If personal data are processed for the purposes of archiving in the public interest, the controller or the processor may restrict the data subject’s right to erasure insofar as the exercise of these rights is likely to impede that public interest.

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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?

A law enforcement agency may restrict the scope of the obligations and rights provided for in Art. 14 GDPR (inter alia) if:

it is necessary for the exercise of State supervision;

such a restriction respects the essence of the fundamental rights and freedoms; and

it is necessary and proportional in a democratic society.

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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 exceptions to the data subject’s right in several situations. For example:

  • where personal data are processed for the purposes of archiving in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes, or statistical purposes, and the exercise of the data subject’s rights is likely to significantly impede those purposes; and
  • where the Unemployment Insurance Fund processes personal data to fulfil its statutory purposes.

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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?

There are various additional situations where data subjects’ rights can be restricted, for instance:

  • where personal data are processed for the purposes of archiving in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes, or statistical purposes, insofar as the exercise of these rights is likely to make the achievement of the objectives of those purposes impossible or impedes it to a significant extent;
  • where it is necessary for the purpose of financial supervision or financial crisis prevention and resolution by the Financial Supervision Authority;
  • where a credit institution is processing personal data for AML, fraud prevention, risk management or other security reasons; and
  • where it is necessary for the exercise of State supervision and the restriction of data subjects’ rights are compatible with their fundamental rights and freedoms and such restrictions are necessary and proportionate in a democratic society.

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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 specific rules applicable to joint controllers, but the general legal regime applicable to joint and several liability applies. The data subject may require full or partial compensation from all joint controllers, from any of them or from some of them separately. If one of them has performed the obligation in full, the other solidary obligors are not liable to the data subject. Between themselves, the joint controllers are liable for the performance of the obligation in equal shares unless otherwise provided by the law (the GDPR) or a contract (e.g., limitation of liability).

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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?

Impact Assessments are only required in accordance with the provisions of the GDPR.

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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)?

See Q5(b)(v) above.

If analyses and studies are carried out by the executive branch of government for the purposes of policy development, the executive branch has the right to access the databases of other controllers or processors and to process the personal data therein. Before commencing the processing, the DPA is required to verify compliance with the terms and conditions set out in the PDPA, except where the objectives of the studies conducted for policy development and the scope of processing of personal data are explicitly permitted or required by the law.

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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 are not subject to secrecy obligations under national law.

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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?

Data transfers are not subject to restrictions beyond those set out in the GDPR.

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Q15/ DPAs

(a) Details of the DPA(s).

  • Name of DPA: Andmekaitse Inspektsioon
    • Address: Tatari 39, Tallinn 10134, Estonia
    • Website: aki.ee

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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 DPA may make enquiries to electronic communications undertakings about data required for the identification of an end-user related to the identification tokens that were used on public electronic communications’ networks, except for data relating to the transmission of messages if identification of an end-user related to the identification tokens is impossible in any other manner.

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

Decisions of the DPA may be challenged by filing an appeal directly with the DPA within 30 days of the date on which the data subject became aware, or ought to have become aware, of the decision. Alternatively, the decision may be appealed to an administrative court, regardless of whether an appeal has already been filed with the DPA.

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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)?

No specific rules on this issue have been adopted in light of the GDPR. There are certain sector-specific rules that may restrict such powers.

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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?

Fines in misdemeanour proceedings cannot be imposed on public authorities. Penalties in administrative proceedings cannot be imposed on state authorities.

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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)?

As set out in the GDPR, the DPA may issue penalties of up to the greater of €20 million; or up to 4% of worldwide turnover. Financial penalties in administrative proceedings can be imposed repeatedly, until the DPA’s decision is complied with.

The following breaches are subject to potential criminal penalties:

  • the unlawful disclosure of personal data by a person subject to a confidentiality obligation arising from law;
  • the unlawful disclosure of, or the enabling of illegal access to, sensitive personal data, or data concerning the commission of or falling victim to an offence before:
    • a public court hearing;
    • making a decision in the matter of the offence;
    • termination of the court proceedings in the matter; or
  • the illegal use of another person’s identity.

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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?

Personal data may be processed and disclosed in the media for journalistic purposes without the consent of the data subject, if it is in the public interest and in accordance with the principles of journalism ethics. Disclosure of personal data must not cause excessive damage to the rights of any data subject.

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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?

Personal data may be processed without the consent of the data subject for the purpose of academic, artistic and literary expression, provided it does not cause excessive damage to the rights of the data subject.

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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?

There are no specific provisions governing this issue.

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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?

The Employment Contracts Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act provide certain specific requirements relating to the processing of health data of employees, subject to certain stricter rules (e.g., data retention rules).

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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?

There are general derogations, as follows:

  • when processing personal data that have been recorded or obtained in public spaces via CCTV, and where the personal data are intended to be published, there is no need to obtain the consent of the data subjects, but there is an obligation to provide clear notice (except in the case of public events, which a reasonable person would assume will be recorded); and
  • disclosure and processing of personal data relating to a violation of an obligation is permitted for the purpose of assessing the creditworthiness of the data subject (and other similar purposes), provided the controller or the processor has verified the accuracy of the relevant personal data, has a valid legal basis for the processing and has registered the data transmission.

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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?

The DPA has yet to take material enforcement action for breaches of the GDPR.

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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 yet to issue guidance.

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Sorainen contributors

Mihkel Miidla

Mihkel Miidla
Partner, Sorainen
T +372 6 400 959
E [email protected]

Mihkel is a head of the firm’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications sector as well as the Data Protection practice in Estonia. He provides extensive support to clients in all IT and telecoms related matters, especially in cases where IT and IP are closely related.

Mihkel’s extensive knowledge and experience on personal data protection matters allow him to advise clients on all aspects of data protection including implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), cybersecurity, online privacy and data breach response strategies. Mihkel is a visiting lecturer on privacy and data protection at the University of Tartu.

Kaupo Lepasepp

Kaupo Lepasepp
Partner, Sorainen
T +372 6 400 939
E [email protected]

In the IP, IT and telecommunications fields, Kaupo focuses on technology and IP transfers, protection of know-how and confidential information, IT and data protection matters and unfair competition issues, especially from the viewpoint of commercial contracts.

Kaupo has been leading the Sorainen Data Protection practice and projects since 2007. He has assisted clients in achieving data protection compliance and obtaining regulatory approvals both with national and international clients. Kaupo is recognised as the Leading Individual among IP, IT and Telecom lawyers by The Legal 500.

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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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