How to Handle GDPR Requests for Document Access

As a business owner or operator, you may have heard about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a regulation introduced by the European Union (EU) in May 2018. The GDPR sets out rules for how businesses collect, process, and manage personal data of individuals within the EU. One of the major aspects of the GDPR is that it gives individuals the right to access and request copies of their personal data that businesses hold.
If your business operates within the EU or you handle personal data of EU citizens, you may receive GDPR requests for document access. These requests can be made by individuals who want to know what data you hold about them, and how it is being processed. As a business, it is important to handle these requests carefully, as failure to do so can lead to significant fines and damage to your reputation. In this article, we will take a look at how to handle GDPR requests for document access.

Understand the GDPR

Before you start handling GDPR requests for document access, it is crucial to have a proper understanding of the regulation. You need to know the legal requirements, deadlines, and the rights of individuals as stipulated in the GDPR. You should also familiarize yourself with the different types of personal data that the GDPR covers.
For businesses, personal data can include everything from names and addresses to financial information and contact details. You should also know that the GDPR applies to both electronic and paper records, and that you should handle personal data securely and appropriately.

Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

If your business handles large volumes of personal data, it is mandatory to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining GDPR compliance. The DPO should have a good understanding of the GDPR and be able to handle GDPR requests for document access effectively.

Create a Procedure for Handling GDPR Requests

It is important to create a procedure for managing GDPR requests for document access. This should include the steps that employees should follow when handling such requests, the timelines, how to verify the identity of the requester, and how to provide the requested documents securely.
It is recommended that you document every step of the procedure, as this can help you to demonstrate that you are GDPR compliant in the event of a data breach or legal challenge.

Verify the Identity of the Requester

When you receive a GDPR request for document access, you need to verify the identity of the requester. This is to prevent unauthorized access to personal data. You can ask the requester to provide a valid ID document (such as a passport) or to log in to their account on your website (if applicable). You should keep a record of the verification process to demonstrate that you have taken proper measures to protect personal data.

Respond to the Request within the Prescribed Timeline

Under the GDPR, businesses have one month to respond to GDPR requests for document access. You should ensure that you respond within the prescribed timeline to avoid potential fines and legal action. If you are unable to provide the requested documents within one month, you should inform the requester and provide a reason for the delay. You may also be able to extend the deadline by two additional months in certain circumstances.

Provide the Requested Documents Securely

When providing the requested documents, you should ensure that they are supplied securely using an encrypted channel or posted in a secure way. You should not share personal data via email or unsecured channels. You should also ensure that the requested data is complete, accurate, and up-to-date.

Log the GDPR Request

It is important to log every GDPR request for document access that you receive. This can help you to demonstrate that you have handled requests in a timely and appropriate manner. It can also help you to identify trends in requests and address potential issues proactively.


GDPR requests for document access can seem daunting and overwhelming, but by following the procedures outlined above, you can handle them effectively. Remember, compliance with the GDPR is an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. You need to ensure that you are monitoring and maintaining GDPR compliance to avoid potential fines and reputational damage. If you need further guidance on GDPR compliance or handling GDPR requests for document access, seek advice from a legal professional or a consultant.

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