Location data is personal data - noyb wins appeal against Spanish DPA

25 January 2023
location data

Location data is personal data - noyb wins appeal against Spanish DPA

The Spanish Courts annulled a past decision by the Spanish DPA (AEPD). The AEPD had previously argued that Virgin telco, a telecommunications provider, had lawfully denied its customers access to their location data. noyb argued that location data was personal data and must therefore be disclosed under the right to access. Now, half a year later, both the AEPD and the Audiencia Nacional sided with noyb.

Background. The GDPR grants users the right to access data companies store on them. On this basis, a Spanish customer requested access to his location data to Virgin telco. As Virgin telco refused to grant access, the customer filed a complaint with the AEPD, the national data protection authority. The AEPD sided with Virgin telco and concluded that no access to such data will be given. noyb appealed this decision in June 2022.

Appeal against Spanish DPA. In the appeal, noyb argued for the fundamental right to access to be respected. While all telecommunications providers in Spain have to store location data on their customers, they must also adhere to the right of access and provide users with their data. noyb also pointed out that the past decision of the AEPD was not sufficiently explained: Virgin telco initially refused to disclose the data by arguing that only authorities during criminal investigations may have access.

AEPD and Court side with noyb. After considering noyb's submission to the Court, the AEPD reevaluated the initial position and sided with noyb. Virgin telco followed suite and did not object to the appeal brought before the Spanish Audiencia Nacional. Finally, the Audiencia Nacional confirmed noyb's arguments and annulled the initial decision by the Spanish DPA.

Felix Mikolasch, data protection lawyer at noyb: "We are very happy about this court decision. Telecommunication location data will now hopefully be treated as personal data from the very beginning. We hope that other authorities also take this case into account."

Spanish DPA to issue new decision. It is now up to the Spanish AEPD to decide on the case. As the AEPD already sided with noyb during the appeal, we hope for a quickly issued final decision. In Austria, a similar appeal is still pending.