What is GDPR right of access?

The GDPR’s right of access empowers users to get details about how organizations collect, process, and use their personal data. Right of access allows individuals to request and receive confirmation from businesses or organizations about whether their personal data is being processed. If it is, individuals have the right to get a copy of their personal data, along with additional details such as the purpose of processing, what personal data is being processed, and the recipients of the data.

The legal definition of right of access

“The right of access, commonly referred to as subject access, gives individuals the right to obtain a copy of their personal data, as well as other supplementary information.

What this means is that any business collecting information from users such as email addresses, names, occupations, etc. is required to provide accurate information to users about their data on request. 

For example, for a website collecting newsletter signups, the business would need to be prepared to provide any subscribers with the following information:

  • What personal data the business has on the user (Full name, email address etc. Note that this may also include advanced data such as website user behavior and analytics)
  • What the business intends to do with the user’s data (marketing and sales email campaigns, demographic analytics data etc.)
  • Who the recipients of the personal data will be (e.g. for marketing purposes only)

What is the purpose of GDPR right of access?

The purpose of the right of access is to promote transparency for organizations collecting user data. Data privacy is more important than ever and GDPR aims to give users control over their own personal data and be aware of how it is being used by organizations. This right enables individuals to make informed decisions regarding their privacy and utilize any of the following GDPR Policies:

  • Right to be forgotten
  • Data breaches
  • Consent policy

Key features

Confirmation of data processing: Individuals can request organizations to confirm if their personal data is being processed.

Access to personal data: If personal data is being processed, users have the right to obtain a copy of the data. This information should be provided in a commonly used electronic format unless otherwise requested.

Additional details: Along with the personal data copy, users can also request supplementary information, including the purpose of processing, the categories of personal data involved, the recipients of the data, and the retention period.

Process for requesting access

To exercise GDPR’s right of access, individuals can submit a request to the organization holding their personal data. This request is typically made in writing or by email. The organization must respond within one month and provide the requested information, or explain any reasons for not complying if applicable.

Exceptions and limitations

While the GDPR’s right of access is broad, there are some exceptions and limitations to consider. For example, the right may be restricted if it adversely affects the rights and freedoms of others or if it infringes upon trade secrets or intellectual property rights. Additionally, requests that are excessive or repetitive may be subject to a reasonable fee.

Importance for businesses

Compliance with the GDPR’s right of access is crucial for businesses. Not only is it a legal obligation in the UK and EU, but by offering users transparency and access to their own personal data, businesses can establish trust and demonstrate their commitment to data protection. 

Failure to comply with GDPR can result in large penalties for non-compliance and damage brand reputation. To ensure that you avoid any legal penalties, we advise that you read and understand your responsibilities under GDPR and any potential ramifications. To minimize time spent on finding and sharing user data upon request, we suggest implementing a reliable system for data processing or using tools that can automate the extraction of customer data for GDPR right of access requests.


GDPR’s right of access grants individuals the power to control their personal data, and that’s a good thing. It promotes transparency, accountability, and privacy rights. By respecting and fulfilling this right, businesses can build trust and enhance their data protection practices while complying with the GDPR regulations.

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